By Ottawa Sportspage, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
They’re all in Grade 10, all members of the Louis-Riel sports-study hockey program, teammates with the dominant Rockland Nationals Midget ‘AAA’ team, and now Evan Boucher, Liam Cavan, Mason Carter and twins Simon and Vincent Labelle can add one more item to their list of commonalities: they are all Ontario Hockey League draft picks.
Oh, and the five recently-recruited Rebelles are also all good friends – thankfully, since they spend a majority of their waking hours together.
“Seeing them both on the ice and at school, I know they get along really well,” smiles Louis-Riel hockey program and Rockland Nationals Jr. ‘A’ coach Dan Sauvé, who was pleased to see his players recognized at April’s draft.
“They just love being on the ice,” he adds. “And they’re always having little friendly competitions. If ever there’s a little bit of playtime on the ice, they’re never shooting pucks or doing individual things, they’re always battling with each other, fighting for pucks. They’re very, very driven.”
The shared commitment is certainly paying off. This season, the quintet helped their Nationals team to a Hockey Eastern Ontario championship with only 2 regulation losses all year, and then represented HEO at the OHL Gold Cup in May.
On top of their 4 practices/games a week with their Nationals club team, they’re on the ice every second afternoon with Sauvé and the Louis-Riel hockey program, while the other half, they’re working out at the world-class Dome LR.
The off-ice conditioning is the biggest tool provided by sports-études, Sauvé indicates, since it ensures players can maintain their muscle mass throughout the season, develop proper weightlifting techniques, and work on mobility/flexibility, which can often be overlooked.
On ice, it’s a similar focus on individual skill development – such as receiving passes on the backhand, in skates, or tipping pucks.
“Specific skills that coaches don’t have time to work on during practices where it’s a lot of team concepts, like the powerplay,” Sauvé explains. “It’s good for them to zone in on little details.”
The Louis-Riel hockey program members don’t play together as a regular team, though when the players (other than the five OHL draftees) did come together for April’s Franco-Ontario championship tournament in Niagara Falls, they came out on top.
“There are really, really great kids in the program that are pushing each other,” underlines Sauvé, who works alongside longtime Louis-Riel hockey guru Mark Dregas. “It’s really fun for us.”
With five different destinations – Simon Labelle to Sudbury, Boucher to Flint, Cavan to Ottawa, Carter to Mississauga and Vincent Labelle to London – it’s possible the OHL draftees may have less time together in the near future, though they are all eligible to return to the Rockland Midget team next year, or move up to the Nationals Jr. ‘A’ team.
“I think all those kids will either play OHL or get a scholarship and they’ll be able to continue on playing hockey way past their junior days,” signals Sauvé. “They have the natural talent and ability. From here, it’s about their desire and drive to get better.
“We’re proud to have them at our school, and within our Jr. ‘A’ program. All five are wonderful people.”