Men’s Ti­tans look to dom­i­nate in 2017-18 sea­son

Sackville Tribune - - SPORTS - Wal­lie Sears Write Call

Mem­bers of the 2016-17 men’s hockey Ti­tans came within a mil­lime­tre of join­ing their foot­ball broth­ers in reign­ing as provin­cial cham­pi­ons but a last­minute hic­cup – an up­set 4-3 loss to Rolande Pepin of Camp­bell­ton – cost them that hon­our. But three young men who played a key role in their over­all suc­cess – Sam Tower, Jarod Prescott and Jack Estabrooks – say they sim­ply can’t wait to get back on skates and fin­ish the job.

The trio joined with coaches for a dis­cus­sion of the past and fu­ture of the pro­gram and all be­lieve that the best may yet lie ahead. Even though eight mem­bers of the cur­rent lineup will be grad­u­at­ing in June, coach Ernie Austin is con­fi­dent he will ice a pow­er­ful con­tender in the years to come.

An ex­am­ple of just how in­tim­i­dat­ing this year’s team was is demon­strated in the won-lost record – 31 vic­to­ries in 45 out­ings. Among these was a 12-3 league record in which three AAA teams par­tic­i­pated. They Front row, left to right: Sam Tower and Ed­uardo Moreno De Je­sus. Mid­dle row, left to right: Ben Kum­mer, Kyle Tren­holm, Ja­cob Estabrooks, Jack Estabrooks, Alex Hall and Spencer Ac­ton. Back row, left to right: coach Peter Ward, coach Ernie Austin, Jared Prescott, Seth Smith, An­drew Steele, Alex Robert­son, Tyler Long, Blair Estabrooks, Jeff Laf­ford, Ryan Brown, Zach Lloyd, coach Mike Cul­li­hill, trainer Nolan Dob­bin, coach Tim Hicks and coach Sam Burry.

won 12 games in 19 tour­na­ment starts and posted six vic­to­ries against one tie and two de­feats along the play­off trail. They also won their own tour­na­ment and ended with nine wins in 13 tries against the larger schools.

This was an amaz­ing feat when taken in per­spec­tive. It was just four sea­sons ago when coach Ernie Austin took over the reins and they went win­less in 20 tries. But he and his staff had ideas and for­mu­lated a sys­tem

that has seen a dra­matic im­prove­ment. They man­aged to reach the .500 level dur­ing the sec­ond sea­son and last year nailed 28 vic­to­ries and 43 at­tempts.

A high­light of the past year was the play of their two goalies – Ed­die De­je­sus and Sam Tower. They posted a goal­sagainst av­er­age of just un­der two and a stop per­cent­age of nearly .900. While De­je­sus will be gone, Tower will re­turn to en­sure a solid pres­ence in goal.

As­sis­tant coach Tim Hicks says another ma­jor fac­tor was the vast im­prove­ment on the blue-line. He says the unit came to­gether sud­denly and made life much sim­pler for the puck stop­pers, while the for­wards also bought into the de­fen­sive sys­tem, re­sult­ing in the low num­ber of goals per­mit­ted.

Even though the play­ers are re­cov­er­ing from the an­guish of los­ing out in the cham­pi­onship game to Rolande Pepin of Camp­bell­ton, the three young men sit­ting down for the dis­cus­sion said they sim­ply can’t wait to lace up the blades and get back on the ice and fin­ish the job this time.

The were re­fer­ring the 4-3 up­set in the cham­pi­onship game to a team they had downed 4-2 in round-robin play. Af­ter fall­ing be­hind early, the Ti­tans ac­tu­ally outscored their op­po­nents 3-1 over the fi­nal 40 min­utes but then the bell went and out went the lights.

Gone but not for­got­ten via grad­u­a­tion will be se­niors Ai­dan O’neal, Alex Robe­son, Ryan Brown, Spencer Ac­ton, Blair Estabrooks, An­drew Steels, Ben Kum­mer and Ed­die De­je­sus. But with such stal­warts as Estabrooks, Prescott, Tower, Jeff Laf­ford, Tyler Long and Zack Lloyd re­turn­ing to lead the way the fu­ture of Titan hockey seems to be in good hands.

Dur­ing the past sea­son Ryan Brown led the scor­ing race with Long and Jack Estabrooks fol­low­ing so it seems both scor­ing and de­fence should con­tinue to be stout.

The hockey pro­gram is usu­ally a lit­tle slow in get­ting up to strength as sev­eral of their play­ers are also with foot­ball and the sea­sons of­ten over­lap, caus­ing a de­lay in set­tling the lines and de­vel­op­ing spe­cial team rou­tines but when that is com­pleted it is a mat­ter of how far they can go.

Dur­ing the past sea­son, the Ti­tans had six af­fil­i­ated play­ers with the Ban­tam Le­gion­naires, with all see­ing action at some point, and Austin feels they will bring a new en­ergy to the team. And he has words of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the lo­cal mi­nor sys­tem that con­tin­ues to de­velop some out­stand­ing tal­ent.

Ad­ding to this is the fact a num­ber of Titan play­ers are dou­bling as coaches for the younger play­ers, which in turns gives them a bet­ter over­all con­cept of the game.

With the en­tire coach­ing staff ex­pected to re­turn and with no plan to move up to the AAA level the roof should be the limit as they aim to do a to­tal 360-de­gree turn in five sea­sons – from “raga­muffins” to kings of the hill.

SACKVILLE, N.B.

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