Ice ready

Amherst Ram­blers will host Val­ley Wild­cats to open new MHL sea­son

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­rell.cole@amher­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Ju­nior A Ram­blers are ea­ger for their home opener this Satur­day.

In one of the most im­por­tant sea­sons in the his­tory of the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ram­blers, fran­chise head coach and gen­eral man­ager Jeff Le­Blanc is urg­ing fans to have man­aged ex­pec­ta­tions as the club pre­pares to open the 201819 Mar­itime Ju­nior Hockey League sea­son.

The team they see on open­ing night may not be the unit that takes to the ice on May 1 to start the Fred Page Cup, em­blem­atic of East­ern Cana­dian ju­nior A supremacy.

Say­ing that, he’s very happy with the club he has as the Ram­blers open their sea­son at home Satur­day, 7 p.m. against the Val­ley Wild­cats.

“We’re try­ing not to look too far ahead this year,” Le­Blanc said. “We re­ally haven’t seen any other teams in our divi­sion play yet this year, other than the ex­hi­bi­tion game with South Shore. Un­til I see all the teams and some reg­u­lar sea­son games I’m not go­ing to make any pre­dic­tions.”

Com­ing out of train­ing camp, Le­Blanc said he’s very pleased with his team’s speed and hockey sense – things he thought last year’s club was lack­ing.

“We need to play a high tempo style. We’re go­ing to be a bit smaller, but we’ll be a lot faster,” Le­Blanc said. “What we’ve no­ticed in the ex­hi­bi­tion games is we’re get­ting on their de­fence a lot faster than last year and that’s what we want to do. We want to play that style all year.”

Al­though man­aged ex­pec­ta­tions

are im­por­tant, Le­Blanc said his club will not be look­ing to go to the cham­pi­onships via the back door as host. In­stead, he wants his club to fo­cus on the reg­u­lar sea­son a week at a time with the aim of get­ting bet­ter and peak­ing at play­off time.

“Nine months is a long time and

a lot is go­ing to hap­pen. There will be ups and downs and peaks and val­leys, but our goal is to get bet­ter ev­ery day and keep the neg­a­tiv­ity from creep­ing in,” he said.

The Ram­blers en­ter the sea­son need­ing to re­place sev­eral top line for­wards in­clud­ing lead­ing scorer Jor­dan King, Brady Griffin-Hef­ford,

Liam Con­rad, Lay­ton Par­sons and Will Bower. Also gone is Brock McEwen, who was dealt re­cently to the Camp­bell­ton Tigers.

Back up front are Will Laf­ford, Cole Waugh, Ja­cob Myra and Caleb Rich.

Le­Blanc has made some key ad­di­tions to the for­ward corps in­clud­ing Ni­cholas Snow, who played in St-Jerome, Que. last sea­son; Casey Fox, who played with the Monc­ton Wild­cats; Hunter McIn­tyre, from Summerside; Alex Lafre­niere from the Saint John Seadogs; James Walker from the Brockville Braves; and Aidan McFar­land from Kingston, Ont.

They’re joined by rook­ies Stephen Fox (last sea­son’s Nova Sco­tia ma­jor mid­get scor­ing leader and MVP), Cole Dar­ragh from Monc­ton, Max Boudreau from She­diac and for­mer RNS River­hawk and Monc­ton Wild­cats draft choice Mark Rum­sey.

“We’ve re­placed eight for­wards from last year, and not just any eight play­ers. We’ve lost six of our top for­wards,” he said. “We’re solid in nets and good on de­fence with five com­ing back. We’ve added a great for­ward group in the last cou­ple of weeks and we’re only go­ing to get bet­ter. Now it’s to work on the chem­istry and learn­ing to play as a hockey team. It’s go­ing to take a while but we have a while. We know we’ll be play­ing in May.”

De­fen­sively, Daw­son Gre­nier and Matt Sar­toris lead a vet­er­an­laden group that in­cludes Bradley Dawe, Thomas Ashe and Dayne Chasse. New­com­ers in­clude Alex Wyn­ter from Monc­ton (who was in camp last year) and Lin­den Na­m­a­goose from the Kirk­land Lake Gold­min­ers.

In goal, the Ram­blers made a big move at the start of camp ac­quir­ing for­mer Saint John Seadogs goalie Matt Wil­liams from Summerside. He’ll be joined by re­turn­ing goalie Joel Goguen.

DAVE MATHIESON – AMHERST NEWS

In nine months, the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ram­blers will host the Fred Page Cup. The road to the East­ern Cana­dian cham­pi­onships be­gins Satur­day when the Ram­blers host the Val­ley Wild­cats in their home opener at the Amherst Sta­dium. A key mem­ber of the Ram­blers this sea­son will be de­fence­man Matt Sar­toris, who had two goals and 11 as­sists in 49 games last year.

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