With a new coach at the helm, the Brookfield Elks have kicked off their 2017-18 hockey season with a renewed sense of focus and optimism.
Shane Robar becomes the third coach in three seasons to guide the Brookfield Elks of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League. Following Kevin Aucoin and Patrick Stewart behind the Elks bench, Robar will be assisted by Craig Carter and Ernie McNea.
The coaching staff put the Elks through an upbeat practice Thursday night at Colchester Legion Stadium.
“The biggest focus this year is changing the culture so that focus is at the forefront of everything we do,” Robar said. “We’re going to hold up-tempo practices and the big goal for this hockey club is to make the playoffs. We have named Matt Morefield as captain. Matt brings a competitive mindset to the rink every night and gives 120 per cent every game. Matt is the kind of guy you want leading your team.”
The Elks have played one regular season game to date this season, falling to East Hants Penguins 5-4 in overtime at the East Hants Sportsplex. Next week has Brookfield on the road Monday night playing against Sackville Blazers. Thursday night the same two clubs meet at the Sportsplex in Brookfield.
The Elks home opener will display the absence of Aaron Mantle and Matt Jones, last season’s goaltenders.
“We have two young goaltenders who have a lot of promise,” Robar advised.
“Tyler Howe played junior C last year and Mitchell Cummer is coming off a good season. These goaltenders will gain confidence the more they play, they’ll receive a lot of support from everyone on the team.”
Robar, an Eastern Passage native, played four seasons on defence in the Maritime Junior
Hockey League with Amherst Ramblers and Bridgewater Lumberjacks.
He was an assistant coach last season to Steve Crowell with Dartmouth Steele Subaru and in 2015-16 he was assistant coach with Newbridge Academy Senators in major bantam. Prior to that, he was in junior A ranks as an assistant coach with Bridgewater Lumberjacks.
Morefield, a right-winger, put up good numbers for the Elks last season firing 12 goals and recording 13 assists. A native of Porter’s Lake, the 20-year-old is happy to be wearing the ‘C’ for his team.
“I’ve looked up to several former captains I played with along the way – it’s kind of nice when you have 16- and 17-year-olds looking up to you.
“I’m glad to be captain of this Elks hockey team. I want to give back, it’ll be nice to be able to work with the young players.”
The third year Saint Mary’s University finance student touched on the team’s home opener.
“I had a few home rinks over
the years but there’s something really special about the Brookfield rink. We’re looking forward to getting back in our team’s big dressing room and we’re excited as we look forward to playing before the home fans next Thursday night.”
Defenceman Liam Giffen rejoins the Elks after an outstanding season with Kensington Vipers of the Island Junior Hockey League. After a first-place finish, the Vipers lost out in seven games in the league finals to the Western Redwings for the island junior B title. Giffen played with the Elks in 2015-16 and 2014-15.
“It’s going to be nice playing again with a number of guys I played with back as early as bantam,” Giffen, 19, who grew up in Coldstream, said.
“It’s also great to be back playing with players I started my junior career with. This year’s team has some potential for sure; we have a real good foundation, when the chemistry comes together we’ll make some noise.”
An all-around athlete, Giffen
played left-field with Nova Scotia’s U-21 team at the Canada Games in Winnipeg this past summer.
Caelen Blaikie, solid at fivefoot-10 and 185 pounds, plays centre and is returning to the Elks for his second season following an outstanding training camp with the junior A Truro Bearcats.
Blaikie, who had 10 goals and 13 assists last season, is happy that several top players are returning.
“A number of us have played together over the years,” Blaikie, 19, of Truro, said. “We’re familiar with each other, which is good. We’re definitely aiming to make the playoffs, this has been a disappointing area the past few seasons. This year, I think we finally have the team to be a contender, we want to be the kind of team that can make a serious playoff run.”
Members of the 2017-18 Brookfield Elks junior B hockey club are, from left, Matt Morefield, Liam Giffen, Caelen Blaikie and coach Shane Robar.