Making an impression

Big Rapids hockey stars looking forward to Meijer Sate Games

BIG RAPIDS — When Tim Blashill talks to his hockey players who are about to tryout for a junior hockey team he gives them the same message — make an impression.

Derrick Defever of Big Rapids will play in the Meijer State Games beginning on Thursday. Also playing are Joe Carney and Seth Adams and they will be coached by Tim Blashill. (Pioneer file photo)

If a player can make an impression, the scouts are more likely to keep watching giving them a better chance to make the team, according to the Big Rapids hockey coach.

That same principle applied to his hockey players, Derrick Defever, Joe Carney and Seth Adams, who tried out for Meijer State Games of Michigan’s Team North. All three players were chosen for the squad.

“You always want to get noticed and you do that by working harder than everyone else,” Blashill said.

Blashill, who also will coach Team North after serving as an assistant a season ago, held two different tryouts due to the geographical size the team encompasses. The team is made up of players from a line from Mount Pleasant to Big Rapids north, including all of the Upper Peninsula.

More than 70 players took part in a pair of tryouts in Sault Ste. Marie with five coaches evaluating players on skill, speed and work ethic.

“I wanted to make sure everyone was being evaluated on the same things,” Blashill said. “Those are the things that coaches tend to look at anyway so it seem to make sense.”

When the tryouts were all said and done, the three Big Rapids players were selected among the 22 players taken which includes 20 position players and two goalies. Adams will not take part in the event, however, after injuring his medial collateral ligament.

Because of the distance the players are traveling, the team began practicing for Thursday’s games on Tuesday. They will have one more practice today before heading to Grand Rapids for the eight-team tournament.

The team will play in three round-robin games, including one contest each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The quarterfinal match-up is set for Saturday night before the semifinal and final scheduled for Sunday.

“This is a highly-scouted event and it’s a great showcase for hockey players,” Blashill said. “As an athlete you want to compete as best as you can and make a good impression.”

Though he hasn’t hit the ice much since the end of hockey season of his junior campaign, Defever has simple goals heading into the tournament.

“I’m sure it will help to be recognized, but other than that, I just want to play hockey and have some fun,” he said.

Following his coach’s advice, Defever didn’t have trouble getting recognized by the coaches who did the evaluating.

“That talent was pretty good, but I could tell I was a little faster and I think that helped me stand out,” Defever said.

The Meijer State Games, in its second year, is an Olympic-style competition featuring 4,500 athletes from across the state in 25 different sporting events.

Festivities begin with the Opening Ceremony on Friday and concluding Sunday.

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