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