News and notes from week one of GNML action
by Randy Pascal
Despite some mid-week concerns that the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves would be forced to postpone their first two outings of the 2018-2019
Great North Midget League (GNML) season, the games against the Kapuskasing Flyers went off, without a hitch, over the weekend.
Clearly, there is still plenty of work to be done with the defending TELUS Cup host team, but in dropping their contests by scores of 4-2 and
4-0, the Sudbury crew proved that they are unlikely to be embarrassed this year, despite icing a completely rebuilt roster.
In fact, the Nickel Capital Wolves were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie with the visitors after forty minutes of play on Saturday night, as the Sudbury tandem
of Ethan Bronicheski and Jacob Fahey traded goals with Flyers Alexandre Blais and Brendan Aubertin.
A pair of third period tallies from Dawson Linklater, the first coming with the man advantage, spoiled an outstanding effort between the pipes
from Sudbury netminder Owen Kilganon, who turned aside 44 of the 48 shots that he faced.
Like every teammate in their dressing room, Kilganon is aware of the challenges that his team faced, getting a late start on the opening of training
camp, with new head coach Brian Dickinson handed the reins only in mid-August.
"We just want to work hard for each other, go to war for each other," said Kilganon. "We don't want to let anyone down on the team, so that's helping us
get through this." Seemingly, the team will not lack in defensive depth, with the trio of Avery Chisholm, Spenser Dickson and Graeme
Siren providing a back-end core to build around.
Unfortunately, the team is also currently using at least two or three lifetime defenceman as forwards, by necessity, with Kilganon now playing behind a
squad that bears very little resemblance to the team of players with whom he had worked his way through the "AAA" hockey ranks.
"I've been used to the same players, so you know what their tendencies are," said the soon-to-be 16 year old grade 11 student at Ecole Secondaire
catholique l'Horizon. "You just have to adjust to the new players."
Likewise, they will need to get acclimatized to any help their puckstopping friend can offer, especially in particularly vulnerable situations. "Behind
the net, when they've got their backs turned, I need to make sure to let them know there's someone on them, what plays they might have," Kilganon
The Kapuskasing crew completed their weekend sweep on Sunday as goaltender Joshua Dubeault backstopped his team with a shutout, while Brendan
Aubertin, Blane Boissonneault, Carlo Smokowich Jr and Alex Lapointe accounting for the offense in a 4-0 win.
By all accounts, Sudbury netminder Ryan Teddy made it back to back solid performances for the Nickel Caps tandem, as well. Overall, Flyers' head
coach Glenn Denney had plenty of positive takeaways for the long bus ride home.
"We've got some skill, but we really are a young, hard working team," he said. "We try and get on top of pucks, take away time and space, and capitalize
on mistakes." Kapuskasing has welcomed a dozen new players to the fold, this year, with 17 of the teenagers eligible to return next year to midget hockey.
"In truth, we have been throwing a lot at them, systems-wise, and I've been really impressed with how much they have absorbed in three weeks," added
Denney. The key, moving forward, in his mind, is helping his young talent find the proper balance between urgency and composure on the ice.
"We want these guys to play at 100 MPH," said Denney. "Their legs have to move at 100 MPH, but their minds have to slow down. We're getting into lots
of scoring areas, but you have to be able to react and finish a play when we get in those areas."
A native of Newfoundland, Glenn Denney was living in Marathon, part of a mining family, when he would further pursue his hockey dreams, as a player,
moving to Kapuskasing some time ago. No surprise then that his bond his tight with the family he calls the Flyers.
"I came here, as a kid, in the early 1990's to play for this team," he reminisced. "It might sound kind of funny, but really, my whole life has been
centered around this program. I'll stay here forever, because I owe this program everything."
Fast forward to Wednesday night and a highly anticipated battle between the consensus pre-season GNML front-runner (North Bay Major Midget
Trappers) and a team that turned plenty of heads of OHL scouts, advancing to the semi-finals of the Toronto Titans Tournament last weekend
(Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves) did not disapoint a large crowd of onlookers at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex in the least.
Noah Lagrandeur broke free and scored on a clear-cut breakaway with just over two minutes to play, lifting North Bay over Sudbury 3-2 in a very
entertaining affair. Nickel City product Gavin Brown accounted for the two remaining Trappers' goals, with Mitchell Martin (on a beautiful
feed from Devon Savignac) and Chase Stillman replying in a losing cause.
Wolves' netminder Jake Marois was superb in net for the homeside, perhaps less so because of the 41 shots that he faced, but moreso because of the
number of key saves that he was forced to make, left all alone with North Bay attackers far more often that the Sudbury coaching staff would have liked.
Still, on the heels of the weekend that was, coach Mardy St Jacques remained understandably grounded. "I was proud of them, in the sense that the
effort was there," he said. "Considering we went seven games deep in Toronto, I thought that was pretty good."
"We used our speed, once in a while, and we can execute when we get down low. Our power play wasn't super fantastic (1/6), but our five on five play was
good. When we keep games tight like this, it means we're in every game."
Yet as encouraged as he is with the start of the season, St Jacques understands there is still plenty of road to be travelled, with the journey not made
any easier given the accolades his young troops are enjoying this week.
"The problem is that they read a lot, the different rankings, things that go around," the coach acknowledged. "As a result, their helmets start getting
a different size. We just keep telling them to continue on the plan that we have. No matter what your ranking is, if a guy outworks you, out-battles you
on the boards, takes three steps out and gets the shot, that puck can end up in our net."
The upcoming weekend is a busy one, with the Sudbury Minors in New Liskeard on Friday to face the Cubs, the Nickel Capital Wolves in Sault Ste Marie,
facing off against both the Major Midget Thunderbirds (Saturday) and the Minor Midget Thunderbirds (Sunday), the Kapuskasing Flyers handling the mirror
image of the Caps schedule, and New Liskeard and the North Bay Minor Midget Trappers closing things off Sunday afternoon at the Memorial Gardens.