2009-10 NDJHL West Division Season Preview
Friday, September 18th, 2009
The Renegades might be on the defensive when they host the Aylmer Spitfires tonight.
With the loss of veteran blue-liners Jon Quinn, Scott Austin, Anthony Dolcetti and former captain Brandon Schell, it will be up to rookies and players brought in by the coaching staff to fill the gaps.
Up front, Woodstock will have some weapons with overager Cole Maher and former leading scorer Mike Brilhante, who is back with the team after a season in Tavistock.
Luigi Martone was brought in from Provincial Junior A and should provide secondary scoring in the absence of Kevin Lanni and Brent Crawford.
The Renegades could use a full season from overage forward Justin Pottruff, who will provide needed size on the wing.
Starting goalie Chris Lee followed Dolcetti to Simcoe, but second-year netminder Alex Gegeny looked poised in his rookie season and was sharp in the Shoot-Out at the Plex.
The Norwich Merchants are set to defend their Niagara Junior C championship at home tonight when they take on the Paris Mounties.
Norwich lost several key players from last year but, like always, retooled in the off-season.
Handling the goaltending duties will be Matt Coutts, who played Junior B in St. Thomas last season, and Matt McGonigle from Waterloo midget AAA.
Patrolling the blue-line will be Bob Bezzo from the Waterford midgets, Ben Pearson, who played Junior B with the Cambridge Winterhawks, and former Woodstock player Brett Green, who played last season with Guelph Junior B.
Joining the team on forward will be Woodstock's Curtis Logan Addison Fisher, both of whom played Junior B last season.
Back with the Merchants are blue-liners Aaron Wirth, Todd Kemp and overage selection Nathan Geerlinks. Also returning up front are overage players Steve Boyd, Chad Barclay, Justin Bremner, Bryan Phillips, Matt Brown, Tom Brady and Derek McDougall.
Mounties Head Coach Peter Crosby envisions a Paris team that can play above .500 -- and he sees it happening with fans packed into the Paris arena for the Junior C club's last season at the Syl Apps.
The Mounties attracted over 70 players to their training camp and hope the addition of former NHLer Jay Wells to the coaching staff will continue their rebuild.
"Management says this is the most talent they've seen out to camp in the few years they've owned the team," Crosby told the Paris Star.
Paris improved last season from its dismal year in 2007-08, but Crosby believes fundamentals will lead to an even greater step.
"We're going to be a very system-oriented team that is structured in the defensive zone and creative in the offensive zone," he said. "We want to bring the fun and excitement back to the game."
A new coaching staff, revamped defence and potent offensive core make up this year's edition of the green and black as they look to avenge a loss in the Niagara and District Junior C West Division final against Norwich last spring.
First year coach Zane Neily Sr. has been impressed with the players on the defensive side thus far.
The Storm added former Woodstock goalie Chris Lee, who had the second best goals against (2.53) in the league last year.
Simcoe also added Niagara Falls Junior B defenceman Alex Yardi.
"Things are shaping up real nice that way," Neily Sr. told the Simcoe Reformer.
Simcoe lost to Woodstock in the final of last weekend's Shoot-Out at the Plex.
"This year we've got at least four solid, solid D and it helps the goalie out a lot when you've got talent on the blue-line like that," Lee said, "so I think we're going to do good."
The Firebirds are hoping karma is on their side this season.
The team will have the top line from Stratford's Ontario Hockey Federation champion midget squad this year.
Andrew Barton, Haden Campbell and Chris Chapman join another former Stratford midget, Blake Jordan, now in his second year in New Hamburg.
The trio of Chapman, Barton and Campbell combined for 272 points last year. Each member of that line received a Reebok OHF MVP award while winning the Ontario midget championship. They also finished in the top three in OHF scoring, combining for 34 points in six games.
At least one Stratford player is gone from this year's Firebirds.
Jordan Leyser, who spent the latter half of the 2008-09 season in New Hamburg, joined the Junior B Strathroy Rockets this year.
"I trained hard in the summer to take that next step to Junior B," he told the Stratford Beacon Herald.
The Spitfires have some holes to fill.
Gone is the offensive spark from last season's league MVP Graham Spriel. Gone are steady veteran defensemen Kyle Simpson and Rob DeSutter.
Aylmer will likely build from the goal line out, beginning with overage goaltender Brandon Rohrer and steady backup Brad Booy.
The defence will welcome back three solid players.
Derek McTaggart, Sean Mullin and Brandon Harbour all should log plenty of ice time. Harbour was named top defenceman in the Niagara West Division last season.
Another key component on the blue-line is the return of point-producer Cassidy North. North suffered a season-ending injury late last season and missed the playoffs.
Adam Vandepoele, Travis Schruder, Tyler DeDecker and Curtis Maracle will look to lead the way offensively for the Spitfires. Vandepoele is returning for his fifth season in Aylmer and is a consistent top-10 scorer within the division.