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Brockville Islanders and Athens Aeros Practicing Together

posted 19 Jan 2016, 11:28 by Brockville Ontario

Brockville Islanders goalie Ariel Carbino lunges over to make a save against Athens Aeros Shane Spencer when the two teams met for a practice at the Wall Street United Church on Monday. (Jonathon Brodie/The Recorder and Times)

It was a lesson for both teams on the floor.

The CCHL2's Athens Aeros joined the Special Olympics Brockville floor hockey team for a practice Monday at the Wall Street United Church to help them get a little more prepared for the group of 12's battle when they head to the Special Olympics Winter Games in Corner Brook, N.L., which runs from March 1 to 5. The local Special Olympics team, dubbed the Brockville Islanders, had been waiting in anticipation for the practice for quite some time looking to let loose a bit against some stiff competition in a friendly game.

If the smiles and laughs were any indications then the Aeros were just as happy to be a part of the practice as well and they might not have expected how stiff the competition was going to be heading in.

Athens goalie Brennan Kitchen heard some chirping from his teammates when he let in a goal with one Aeros player comparing him to Swiss cheese. A few minutes later there were no insults thrown the netminder's way, but plenty of "ewwws" and "ahhhs" when Islanders forward Bridgette Carbino lifted the felt puck over Kitchen's shoulder.

Aeros centreman Shane Spencer somewhat jokingly - but maybe not completely - was directing teammates to get in the high slot as he prepared to take face offs just left of the Islanders' net.

On the other end of things, Islanders' goalie Ariel Carbino was directing her team where to move as good as anyone in the CCHL2.

"I think they look pretty good. That centre over there I think she's got four goals," said Aeros general manager Norm Racine, pointing to Bridgette Carbino. "She found his weak spot. I hope there are no other junior teams watching here."

The Aeros/Islanders practice came about when Racine contacted Islanders coach Stu Reid, so the two teams could meet up.

Racine has somewhat of an affinity for Special Olympics after his daughter was a softball coach for the local group a couple years ago.

For his team, Racine thought the practice would be a nice way to do something for the community while also getting to have some fun and take a break from a long season that has just 15 games left in it with Athens on the playoff bubble.

"The guys are going to get teamwork, they're going to get to relax, and they're going to see what it's like for other teams to have smiles on their faces and actually enjoy what they're doing. We're getting down at the end, it's a long season and we need some other outlets and to show them some other kinds of teamwork," Racine said. "I want these guys to remember that in sports it's teamwork and it's all for fun at the end of the day."

Reid was happy to grab hold of the Aeros extending their helping hand, giving his players a chance to see how a Junior B squad works together to reach their goals.

"It's going to allow (the Islanders) to see some of the running, the passing and how everybody communicates with each other," Reid said about the benefits of practicing with the Aeros. "You can turn around and coach people to do things, but when they start seeing how somebody else is doing it then you can do a lot better."

Athens learned a little something too as every once in awhile Reid would come onto the floor blowing his whistle to give the Aeros a new rule he forgot to tell them regarding Special Olympics floor hockey - no dragging the puck with your foot, how faceoffs work at their level and the limits of entering the crease.

The local area support is a nice boost for the Islanders, who have been preparing for the national championships for several years now. They punched their ticket to the Canadian Games when they won the provincial championship in May of 2015 in Ottawa. Since then the Special Olympics team has bumped up their practices to twice a week. In 2014, the Islanders had to make it past a divisional tournament to be able to qualify for provincials.

If the Islanders can top the national competition they will earn a spot at the World Games in Austria in 2017.

"It's a great opportunity," Reid said about the Aeros coming out to help them. 

In terms of opportunity, likewise, could probably be said for the Aeros as well.