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Skills development - and fun

It’s all about skill development in the Tillsonburg tyke program.

That of course, and pre-game Gatorade.

“That was probably the best part,” laughed Tillsonburg Minor Hockey Inc. IP Program (Beginning, Junior Tyke and Tyke) convener Jeff Lessif, who also patrols the bench for the Tillsonburg Remax Tyke ‘Blue’ squad.

The future of minor hockey in Tillsonburg was on display this weekend inside the complex, host site for the annual Tillsonburg Hockey Mom’s Tyke Tournament. TMHI was represented by a trio of squads, Remax Blue, Red and White, comprising roughly 36 players between them, says Lessif.

“We’ve had record numbers this year,” he reported, a statement covering the three divisions within the IP program. There are around 42 players in the Beginner ranks says Lessif, typically four, five or six years old, or in their first year of hockey. Another team had to be added at the Junior Tyke level to accommodate roughly 50 players, usually five, six or seven years of age; with approximately 36 in the tyke (six and seven years old) division.

Part of the reason for numbers, believes Lessif, is a TMHI board decision to lower the cost of registration at the bottom end.

“We’re trying to encourage kids to start,” he said. “Once they get hooked, they generally stay around.

“It’s a good problem to have – we hope it continues.”

The Beginners and Junior Tykes practice after school Mondays and Saturday mornings and the Tykes Monday and Wednesday, with games Saturday. Parental support has been particularly good and particularly appreciated with the shorter attention span of younger kids, credits Lessif.

“It makes a world of difference when you have eight or 10 coaches out there instead of three or four.”

At the Tyke level, players were ranked and divided so as to maintain balance among the three squads.

“It’s all about skills development,” said Lessif. “Skating, stick-handling – very little team emphasis, it’s about developing individual skills.”

The Beginners have just one scheduled game, during their last practice of the season. The Junior Tykes roughly a half-dozen in house and the Tykes around 25 or so, estimates Lessif, a schedule featuring a pair of tournaments, including Tillsonburg’s own.


Lessif’s Blue squad played two games, losing to the Dorchester Flyers (who made it to the championship game) and tying the B champions from Belmont. Tillsonburg Remax Blue was eliminated from further semi-final play based on goals differential, said Lessif, for whom a decision to bring Gatorade turned out to be his best strategy move.

“You can’t tell if they won or lost after the game,” he laughed.

Dorchester Flyers 7, Tillsonburg 4

Dorchester broke open a 2-2 game with five third-period goals. Kyle Homick found the back of the net twice for the Blue team, Casen Homick and Ben Ward once each and Landon Boughner contributed an assist.

Tillsonburg 2, Belmont 2

Quinn Lessif and Kyle Homick scored a goal apiece for the Blue team.


Dorchester Bruins 13, Tillsonburg 4

The teams were tied at three after a period, but the Bruins pulled away through the second and third frames.

Blake Ash scored all four of his team’s goals, with assists to Davin Ramer and Grayson Bucko.

Elmvale 8, Tillsonburg 2

Elmvale opened up a close 2-1 lead with three second-period goals.

Tillsonburg’s Ethan Luksys found the real estate in the back of the Elmvale net to his liking, as did Dalton Cassidy.

“We faced a couple of tough teams,” said Remax White coach Joel Breddy. “But they kept going.

“They played their positions and passed well and kept playing right to the end.”

The overall experience was great for all his players, Breddy added.

“It was the first tournament for a couple of them and for the others that had been there, it was the first one of this year.”


Tillsonburg 12, Stoney Creek 1

Hadley Appleford paced the Tillsonburg attack with five goals and an assist, Trent Lamb added two goals and a helper, Caden Craggs two goals and Sophie Hicks and Tyse Loucks one apiece.

Tillsonburg 15, Thamesford 2

Appleford and Zack Smith each poured home for goals for the Red team, Lamb and Craggs a hat-trick each and Hicks one goal.

Dorchester Dragons 6, Tillsonburg 2

A strong Dorchester squad overcame an early deficit with five third-period goals. Appleford had both Red team goals, assisted by Loucks and McKenna Partlo on the second.

“They were a level above us, but our kids played great,” said Tillsonburg coach Derek Partlo.

The team had a good time at its own tournament, he added, at which all three local teams showed the benefit of an emphasis on skills development, from the Beginner level on.

“We’re happy to see the development in these young kids – they’re all starting to love the game.”



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