Breadner doesn’t loaf around
Failure is not an option for Luke Breadner.
The 16-year-old forward for the Pelham Panthers got cut from the Southern Tier Admirals in minor bantam and then had to sit out a year due to the COVID pandemic.
But instead of sulking, the Pelham native decided to put the down time to good use.
“I worked my butt off during COVID because I wanted to be back there,” Breadner said. “I wanted to play again and have a chance at going somewhere.”
Breadner worked out diligently in his home gym and also ran the track at Glynn A Green Public School near his home, concentrating on explosive drills and also tackling the hills for endurance.
The hard work paid off handsomely.
Breadner had a solid season in minor midget with the Admirals last season and this fall cracked the opening roster for the Panthers.
“He AP’d last year with us and came to every practice we had,” Panthers owner/general manager Tim Toffolo said. “Just a really dedicated young man. He skated with us all summer long.
“He deserves to be here. He works really, really hard and he’s got a bright future.”
Toffolo said it’s nice having a local player on the roster.
“At the end of the day, when you’re looking at a young, 16-year-old as opposed to a lot of other guys, we want someone from the hometown,” he said.
Breadner is thrilled to wear the green and white of the Panthers.
“It feels great. I came to the games when I was 10 years old and now I’m playing for them,” said Breadner, a Grade 11 student at E.L. Crossley.
Breadner, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 146 pounds, is still adjusting to junior.
“It’s hard to make the jump. Everyone is faster and bigger. It’s a big jump from AAA,” he said. “You just have to be aware at all times. Making quicker plays, being faster with the puck because everyone is on you as fast as they can.”
Toffolo said Breadner’s stature reminds him of former Thorold Blackhawks star Chris Risi.
“He’s a small player, but very much a tenacious young man who works really hard, but at the same time, he’s learning the junior game at 16,” he said. “He’s come a long way.”
Breadner recently scored his first junior goal in his 15th game.
“That felt great. A weight off the shoulders finally,” Breadner said. “It took awhile.”
Breadner feels he is making strides.
“I’ve noticed at the start of the season I was almost a bit timid but I’m getting used to it more and playing more like I was last year,” he said. “I credit it (hard work) a lot and I appreciate Tim letting me skate with them to develop last year.”
Breadner has been used in a role to aid in his development but not so much he is in over his head.
“Obviously, we want to make sure he’s playing enough to develop but when we’re in a heavy, heavy game with a lot of hitting and a lot of older kids we have to be careful,” Toffolo said.
The Panthers, 2-13-1-1, are at St. Catharines Friday and home to Fort Erie Sunday at 2:45 p.m.
Toffolo is eager to see how his club performs at full strength.
“Every time we get a few guys back, another couple of guys go down,” he said. “We all know at some point it’s going to turn, it’s going to change and I’m sure other teams are going through it.
“Every game you can look in the stands seeing seven, eight, nine guys lined up sitting together.”
Toffolo indicated he feels the team has been proactive to prevent injuries.
“We’re training really hard to try and prevent injuries. It’s the luck of the draw,” he said. “We’ve had broken bones, separated shoulders. You name it, we’ve had it.
“What do you do? At some point you almost laugh a little bit about it. There’s nothing we can do, nothing the guys can do.”
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