Under-21 hockey league nearing climax
The Jamaica under-21 hockey league is winding down to its closing stages, with the champions set to be decided tomorrow at the Mona Astro Turf.
In the men’s division, Shemar Gordon’s 15th-minute goal was enough as the Liguanea Bucks defeated the Portmore Suns 1-0 in yesterday’s final round of preliminary games to advance to the final against the Tavern Trailblazers.
The Bucks, the Trailblazers and the Malvern Falcons finished tied on six points, but the Trailblazers and the Bucks advanced via a superior goal difference, which was the first tiebreaker.
The mixed division saw Liguanea Lites turn back the challenge of Portmore Waves 1-0 to advance to the final, where they will meet Malvern Eagles. Dilan Martin’s goal in the 42nd minute was enough for the win, as they finished group play level on points with the Eagles.
The competition serves as a huge platform for the best young hockey players, as the Jamaica Hockey Federation will use the tournament as a means to select the national under-21 team that will represent the island at next year’s Junior Pan American tournament qualifiers to be held in March.
REVIVING THE SPORT
Director of Growth and Development for the Jamaica Hockey Federation, Michael Blair, said that the league would be the vehicle used to revive the sport in the country citing the success of the high-school leagues as the foundation for young players to show their abilities.
“We formulated a plan to revive the school league itself, and it worked because of the ripple effect [it] created. Most of these players are from the school leagues. We have included some players that are not from the school league to kind of balance the team. We have players who are playing under-16 playing in this league right now. We have a mixture of male and females playing on one league. [These] plans that I have for hockey in Jamaica is on target and exactly how I want it,” stated Blair.
There are plans for another tournament to take place later this year in order to give the federation more time to evaluate potential talent.
“This under-21 tournament will be repeated before year’s end because right now, we are going through the players to find the better players to re-examine anything that we missed out,” said Blair.
The tournament will also be used to select the coaches that will be tasked to harness the players’ potential. This is keeping in line with President Fabian Stewart’s vision of raising the standards to be globally competitive.
“One of the things that we want to do is to increase the number of coaches and certify these coaches. I am working off of the president’s vision, in that there must be a paradigm shift. And that’s what I’m working on right now,” said Blair.