Every new incoming group of draft eligible OHL talent would like to wipe the slate clean to begin their minor midget "AAA" hockey season. For the 2017-2018 edition of the Sudbury Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves, that statement might currently hold true more than most years.
After four years under the direction of head coach Rod Mackenzie, the 2002 talent will be entrusted to a new face in the form of Mardy St Jacques. And while St Jacques is no newcomer to the local minor hockey coaching ranks, this represents his first foray to the "AAA" grouping.
"I've been coaching for at least the past ten years in rep programs," noted St Jacques, who has been a mainstay behind the bench with both the Sudbury Lady Wolves and Nickel City Jr Sons teams in the past.
"Last year, I was involved with the minor midget "AA" program as a non-parent. I really enjoyed being a non-parent, felt the freedom, no pressure, and felt I needed to grow my coaching career a little bit further."
For much of the past decade, St Jacques has been behind the bench alongside his daughter, Chelsea. His focus, next year, will be entirely on the boys, guiding them in a season in which countless eyes across the province are fixated on his and many other minor midget "AAA" squads.
"We're the young guys in the Great North Midget League, so our approach is going to be fast hockey, puck possession," said St Jacques. "We're going to play behind the net and around the perimeter. We won't be initiating heavy battles, but we will create some physicality where we can win races, get into 50/50 pucks."
In fairness to St Jacques, there is already a certain amount of established knowledge of the talent at his disposal as he and his staff undertook the job of piecing together a roster a few weeks back at spring tryouts.
"We coached against that group a couple of years ago," he stated. "That main core is still here and that group has been well coached all the way through. It's very cliché, but we want them to play for the front of the jersey, not the name on the back."
"I do think Rod (Mackenzie) has instilled a work ethic that will allow things to happen, as long as they prepare well." Selecting nine forwards, six defencemen and a goalie at this time, the team will be adding at least a second goaltender, and likely one or more skaters come the end of August.
At this point, the committed roster for the 2017-2018 edition of the Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves includes:Goaltender
Mardy St Jacques (Head Coach)
Bruce McDougall (Ass't Coach)
André Brunette (Ass't Coach)
Dave Lammi (Manager)
Paul Vlahos (Manager)
Rick Kilganon (Strength/Conditioning)
With the glut of North Bay talent in both the 2001 and 2002 age brackets, and the decision not to ice a minor midget "AAA" team in North Bay for the upcoming season, the locals garner a pair of new names to the roster in the form of former Trappers Nathaniel Lalonde and Ethan Masson.
Graeme Siren returns to the "AAA" team after captaining the "AA" Jr Sons to a berth at the OHF championships last year, with the trio representing the only current changes to the 2016-2017 major bantam roster that competed in the NOHL (Northern Ontario "AAA" Hockey League).