Westmount and Verdun – to some that might sound like oil and water, but to the kids, coaches and parents of the atom CC Verdun Leafs, the combination of cultures has been more like chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk.
“So far, after 10 games, we are proudly standing in first place with eight victories, including five shutouts, one loss and one tie,” boasted Leafs
coach Mario Ouellon. “We will soon have some tough games and we expect our opponents to become stronger at every game, just as we are, but we are doing very well so far.”
Ouellon’s crew includes seven kids from Westmount. “We have 15 talented kids with a very strong team spirit; whether the kids are from Westmount or Verdun, they’ve all become very good friends and teammates.”
Team manager Leslie Landsberger has enjoyed working with a mix of different people. “It’s very inspiring to work with such a motivated group of coaches, players and parents, all united with common goals. The hockey itself is very fast and the standards are high, but the kids are up to the challenge,” he said.
Winger Nicolas Huot echoed his coach’s sentiment, adding that one of the pleasures of playing double-letters is getting to see different parts of the hockey landscape. “We’re having success because we play together as a team, and it’s fun to visit and play in new places; some are quite far,” he said.
While giving credit to his whole roster for the team’s good fortune so far, Ouellon noted that his Westmount-based players have all made major contributions to this point in the season. “All seven players bring their own exceptional skills and personalities to their team. They all support each other and cheer together whenever they have the chance. After all, respect is our very first team value,” the coach said.
Indeed, Ouellon named Westmounter Johnathan Carr captain of the Leafs, and one of his three alternates is also a local player, centre Olaf Schöningh. Wingers Charles Culver and Henry Molson also make up part of the nucleus of the team. “We train hard and play hard, but the other teams are not as strong as we thought they would be so far,” said Schöningh, indicating that his team will surely face more adversity as the season moves along.
It is just that, Ouellon said, that the Leafs have been preparing for. “At the beginning of the season, we as coaches had the objective to have all our kids sweating after each practice and smiling after each game. So far this is working very well,” he said. “They all take their duties seriously with pride and pleasure. We also had the aggressive target to finish among the top five, and with 14 games left we are standing in very good position to achieve that goal.”
Winger Brendan Markland said teamwork has been and will continue to be the key to the Leafs winning. “Why are we successful? Because we make smart passes and we play as a team, not a group of individuals,” he said.
And of course, with five shutouts in 10 games, goaltending has been and will continue to be key. “The forwards do their job of keeping the puck in the other team’s end and backchecking a lot, and the defencemen do their job of defending me and taking away rebounds,” said goalie Bryan Landsberger. “All I have to take care of are the shots and dekes.”
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