Just like teams in leagues throughout the world, Canadian University hockey clubs are in the middle of their off season and looking to make changes for the coming year. Several schools have made announcements already regarding played commitments, coaching changes and scheduling updates. Here’s a look at some of the more notable reports from across the country.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and comments are derived from official CIS school press releases and should be credited to the information offices of each school.
In May the Axemen announced that forward Blair Jarret was set to attend the Nova Scotia based school beginning in the fall of 2005-06. The 6’3, 210 lbs winger finished fourth in team scoring with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL last season scoring 27 goals and 47 points in 64 games.
Jarret began his OHL career with the Mississauga IceDogs where he played for three seasons before the move to his hometown where he completed his junior eligibility.
“We are very excited to have Blair committed to coming to Acadia this coming season,” said 2005 CIS Coach of the Year Darren Burns. “He is a tremendous individual who works extremely hard in the classroom and on the ice. With Blair’s skating ability and size he will give us a much-added boost up front. He has very good hands and will be a very strong power forward in this league. There is no question we needed to add some size and scoring punch up front and we feel Blair can give us both.”
Saint Mary’s has released the names of two recruits they hope to have in their line up beginning next fall. Marc Rancourt played the last four seasons with the Belleville Bulls in the OHL where he lead the team in scoring in 2004-05 with 26 goals and 78 points. The 6’1, 197 lbs winger will be a talented addition to the Huskies’ roster. Head coach Trevor Stienburg described the new recruit by saying “He’s a skilled guy; he has good hands and sees the ice well.”
Also joining Saint Mary’s will be 6’2 center Jon Howse who originally hails from Cornerbrook NFLD but played five seasons in the OHL entirely with the Peterborough Petes. Although in those five years Howse never surpassed 39 points in a season, he was consistent with his offensive production having totaled over 30 points three times and scoring at least 10 goals in each of his last four campaigns with the Petes. Last year the 21-year-old played 21 games for the San Angelo Saints of the Central Hockey League and he scored six times and had a total of 12 points.
St. Francis Xavier
The X-Men will have a new leader in 2005-06. Head coach Danny Flynn accepted an assistant coaching position with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL in May thus opening the top job at the Antigonish, Nova Scotia school. Flynn had previously decided to take a one-year leave of absence from St. FX. Brad Peddle has since been named the new interim head coach of the X-Men meaning a return to the team that he once was a star player for back in the late ‘90’s. Under Flynn the X-Men captured their first ever National Championship in 2004 as well as appearances in the finals in 2001 and 2003.
The first of several additions made by the Brock Badgers for 2005-06 was to their forward unit as OHL graduate Chad Thompson has committed to the St. Catharines Ontario institution. Thompson spent four years in the OHL and saw action with four teams over that time frame beginning with the London Knights in 2001-02 then moving on to the Barrie Colts before ending his junior career with the Oshawa Generals. Thompson played a total of 213 OHL games but recorded just 64 points in total.
The Badgers also added a pair of players from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders. Brennan Giroux is a 5’10 center and 6’1 winger Justin Wright will join him. Giroux compiled 222 minutes in penalties and was subsequently awarded the team’s ‘Heart’ trophy, a distinction voted on by the fans. Not to be outdone, Wright logged an intimidating 322 minutes in the sin bin and was named as the team’s Unsung Hero.
Before May ended the Badgers announced that they had reached agreements with two more westerners, this time from Saskatchewan. The Humboldt Broncos will supply forward Curtis Yausie and blueliner Shane Smith to the Badgers for the coming season. Yausie, the Broncos captain last year, recorded 29 points in 52 games while Smith totaled 159 penalty minutes in just 36 games.
So far in the offseason the Lakehead Thunderwolves have added four new recruits to their perennially talented line-up. Center Dan Speer and a new trio of defensemen will seek to bolster the Wolves and get them back on top of the Ontario conference. Speer, a local Thunder Bay product, spent four seasons in the OHL split between the Sudbury Wolves and the Barrie Colts. The 6’2 Speer had a career year in 2004-05 when he racked up 51 points for the Colts, good for fifth highest on the club.
Alberta native Matt Jacques is a diminutive blueliner who played a single season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2000-01. About Jacques head coach Pete Belliveau said “Matt is a very offensive d-man who has a lot of skill and he should step right in and make a contribution, especially on the power play.”
Dan Rogers spent three years in the OHL starting in Owen Sound and then ending in Belleville with the Bulls. Last year the 6’ Ontario native played 61 games and amassed 137 penalty minutes. The Wolves are counting on Rogers for some offensive output but in 190 OHL games he only managed a grand total of 31 points so they either see something in the blueliner that his junior coaches didn’t or they might be barking up the wrong tree.
The third defensive recruit for Lakehead is former member of the Sarnia Sting Jeff Whitfield. After three seasons in Sarnia, Whitfield joined the London Knights for their history making 2004-05 campaign but did not play a game after March 13th including in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup tournament. Whitfield is a defensive defenseman and at 6’2 and 208 lbs, likes to be a physical presence using his strength but will be challenged now at a higher level playing against opponents at least his own size and weight on a nightly basis.
Lakehead will travel south across the border to challenge some NCAA opponents over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. The tough weekend road schedule will see the Thunderwolves visiting the NCAA Champion Denver Pioneers, Colorado College and Air Force in a three game in three day set. Lakehead is also hosting the Varsity Cup Tournament over the Christmas break where they will entertain the Calgary Dinos, St. Francis Xavier and also Lake Superior from the CCHA conference of NCAA.
The Golden Gaels made one of the most media friendly announcements so far of the 2005 off-season when they hired former NHL star Kirk Muller as their next hockey head coach. Muller, a Kingston-born success story himself, would like to elevate the Gaels to new heights beginning in the fall.
“It will be great to get back to my hockey roots here in Kingston,” said Muller. “I am looking forward to lacing up my skates and recharging the Golden Gaels hockey program.”
Muller hopes his experience at the highest level will translate into success in the ranks of university hockey. Muller began his NHL career in New Jersey but had stops in Montreal, Toronto, Long Island, Dallas and Florida.
The first addition to the Warriors’ roster this summer was at center in the form of David Edgeworth. Edgeworth spent most of his three-year OHL career with the Belleville Bulls but the 6’2 middleman is expected to play a bigger role in Waterloo than he did as a junior.
“We needed to add size down the middle and Dave will address that need,” said head coach Karl Taylor. “We see Dave developing into a very solid two-way player. He has scored in the past when he has been used in a scoring role. He will have that opportunity with us.”
Windsor then announced the signing of 6’2 defenseman Devon Lafreniere from the Concordia Thunder of the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference in Edmonton. The St. Paul Alberta product was also a highly decorated member of the AJHL’s Lloydminster Blazers’ defensive unit. The Warriors then added Shane Hart, a former Guelph Storm forward known for his abilities at both ends of the rink. But Waterloo wasn’t done there also inking Drayton Valley Thunder blueliner Sean Moir for 2005-06. Moir had previously spent three years with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.
“I am excited to be part of the rebuilding process the coaching staff has started,” said Moir. “I was looking at other offers but in the end Waterloo was the best fit both academically and for hockey.”
The Lancers have added 6’2 defenseman Jason Taylor, captain of the OHA’s Junior ‘A’ Wexford Raiders. Taylor recorded just 10 points but added 168 minutes in penalties in 47 games. Taylor’s father Jim is a former NHL player who skated with both the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1970’s.
“I am really looking forward to joining Coach Stenlund at the University of Windsor in the fall,” said Taylor. “I believe my style of play fits the type of game that he likes his teams to play. I have been impressed with his enthusiasm for the game as well as the non-conference schedule he has put together.”
Windsor’s 2005-06 exhibition calendar includes road dates against Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green, Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville.
The Lancers have also added Kingston Frontenacs goalie Dayne Davis and winger Sheldon Trosko previously of the AJHL’s St. Albert Saints.
Canada West Conference
The defending CIS National Champions are going to add about half a dozen newcomers for the fall but because some of them could still realistically sign pro contracts, no announcements have been officially made. Sources indicate that all tentative rookies the Golden Bears are about to take on come from the WHL, a consistent theme with the club for many years.
Expected to dress with the Bears in 2005-06 is Seattle Thunderbirds winger Tyler Metcalfe. The Manitoba-born forward played parts of six seasons in Seattle and would have strung together four consecutive over 50-point campaigns if not for making only 61 appearances last year. Still, Metcalfe was able to reach the 20-goal plateau for the forth-straight time.
The 2004-05 season ended Dylan Stanley’s five-year tour of duty with the Tri-City Americans and the offensively dangerous winger will return home to join the U of A for next year. Stanley played with the Greenville Grrrowl during their final three regular seasons games and recorded a pair of assists. In the playoffs, Stanley was a point-per-game player notching two goals and adding five helpers in the Grrrowl’s seven playoff matches. In 2002-03, Stanley totaled a career-high 93 points for the Americans but he surpassed the 50-point mark in each of his last four years with the club.
With the graduation of goaltender Dustin Schwartz and the uncertain future of B.J. Boxma, the Bears are looking to add a pair of new goalkeepers to the mix. The first is Aaron Sorochan who most recently backstopped the Lethbridge Hurricanes to their best record in several years. The Edmonton native also had stints with the Vancouver Giants and Prince Albert Raiders during his five-year WHL career. With a record of 35-19-8 and five shutouts in 2004-05, Sorochan might be the early favorite to be the Bears’ new starter should Boxma indeed be out of the picture.
The other goalie that Alberta has slated for the fall is Blake Grenier, a dependable backup who played for Moose Jaw, Swift Current and most recently the Portland Winter Hawks. In 29 games with Portland last season, Grenier posted four shutouts, a 2.06 goals against average and held a .926 save percentage.
Forward Ty Morris is another leading candidate for inclusion with Alberta’s fall roster. The former fourth round selection of the Vancouver Canucks was the leading scorer for the Red Deer Rebels in 2004-05 and would be a solid addition to the Bears. While still weighing his pro options, the Millet, Alberta product admitted to Hockey’s Future back in the spring that Rob Daum’s Bears would be his top choice of CIS programs.
“I’ve looked into the University of Alberta and Calgary,” Morris said in March. “I’ve always been a fan of the U of A having grown up there so it’s always been my first choice.”
Also a possibility for the Bears is four-year WHL vet Lee Zalasky who most recently played for the Prince George Cougars after stays in Calgary and Moose Jaw. The role-playing winger from Lloydminster had his best statistical season while with the Hitmen in 2003-04 where he compiled 48 points in 63 games.
Alberta has also announced plans to venture into the WCHA conference of NCAA to take on a trio of Minnesota schools in the fall. The Golden Bears will face the powerful Minnesota Golden Gophers, St. Cloud and also Minnesota State in a weekend road series during the early stages of the new year. Under head coach Rob Daum, the Bears have an impressive 6-3 record against NCAA opponents but will face a tough test, especially against the Gophers, while breaking in two rookie goaltenders.
The UBC Thunderbirds feel strongly that their six new additions to their line-up are of the level that could make them Canada West challengers this year. Forwards Darrell May, Peter Hay, Adam Taylor and Tyler Dietrich join goaltender Gerry Festa and rearguard Scott Lynch as the rookie class for UBC in 2005-06.
May spent five seasons in the WHL with three different teams, most recently the Portland Winter Hawks where he enjoyed a career-high 53 points in 71 games. The Alberta-born May played parts of three seasons with the Vancouver Giants so returning to the city is a comfortable decision for him to have made.
Peter Hay was a regular for UMass-Lowell from 2000-03 and then played 62 games for the Reading Royals of the ECHL and seven AHL games with Hartford and Worcester in 2003-04. The 6’5, 205 lbs winger should be an imposing figure on the forward lines of the Thunderbirds next season.
“The experience Peter has had in the NCAA, ECHL and AHL, will be invaluable to us,” commented head coach Milan Dragicevic. “His responsibility is to come in here and score goals and add some veteran leadership. He’s got great hockey sense and his size is a big plus.”
Lynch comes from a family rich in hockey players having three brothers who all played at the same time in the WHL. In fact, along with Jason, Jeff and Doug (a second round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers), Scott made history by suiting up together with the Spokane Chiefs, the first time four brothers played in a game together on the same team. A steady and reliable defenseman, Lynch will help stabilize the Thunderbirds from the backend.
Taylor played his entire WHL career with the Kootenay Ice and put together back-to-back 52-point seasons. Although he only scored 20 goals once as a junior, Taylor proved to be a durable player having dressed for 289 consecutive games, the second longest iron man streak in WHL history. The former seventh round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes will be a key player for UBC and sees the CIS opportunity as a continuation of his hockey career as opposed to the end of it.
“Looking at all the teams and players now in the CIS, I think I can really develop in this league,” he said. “If you look down the rosters, it’s impressive. Players are starting to see that it’s a very competitive league and you don’t have to go to lower pro leagues anymore to improve. I think the university route, getting an education at the same time, is the better route to take.”
Dietrich is a center that bounced around a bit in the WHL before playing two years with Everett to complete his junior eligibility. Although he never played more than 48 games in a single WHL season due to a myriad of injuries, UBC hopes the speedy winger will help generate offense for their club in a tough conference.
Gerry Festa is a small but talented goalie that played for four different WHL teams in as many years. Festa began his junior career with the Saskatoon Blades before stops in Calgary, Spokane and most recently Red Deer. Although never a starter until his 20-year-old season with the Rebels, Festa may prove to be a top notch CIS goaltender with the Thunderbirds although he will have to battle for top seed with returning keeper Doug Groenestege.
The Pronghorns will have a new bench boss to start the 2005-06 schedule as head coach Bill Peters has left the school to take over the reigns of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. No replacement has yet been named but Lethbridge is actively looking for Peters’ successor.
The Pronghorns believe they will have one of the top defensemen in the nation patrolling their blueline this winter. Former Swift Current Broncos captain Jay Langager had to sit out all of last season because of his pro experience in the AHL and ECHL over the last three seasons but figures to make a major impact with Lethbridge in 2005-06. The 24-year-old Langager posted two straight years with more than 50 points in the WHL and in his last pro season with the Johnstown Chiefs he amassed 40 points.
Red shirting this year in Lethbridge is former Prince Albert Raiders standout Seth Leonard. After playing for the Victoria Salmon Kings in 2004-05 the diminutive forward has committed to Lethbridge but is ineligible until the 2006-07 campaign. In his last year with the Raiders Leonard totaled 90 points including 50 goals.
The Pronghorns are also in the running to land Saskatoon Blades goaltender Ryan Cyr who is coming off a solid season in which he compiled a record of 28-19-4 with four shutouts. No formal announcement has been made as of yet however.
The Bisons have set out the welcome mat this offseason and so far seven new faces appear headed to Winnipeg for the 2005-06 campaign. Steve Haddon is a center who helped lead the Portage Terriers to the MJHL title with 81 points in 63 games. Haddon was then named playoff MVP and also to the league All-Star team. The 21-year-old should step into a significant role right away with the Bisons.
Kip Workman was a teammate of Haddon’s with the Terriers and was also on the All-Star team as a defenseman. His 47 points in 63 games was enough to make him the team’s leader amongst blueliners.
The Weyburn Red Wings won the Royal Bank Cup this year on a goal scored by Rick Wood, the Bisons’ new recruit. After three years with Weyburn, Wood joins the forward unit of the Bisons and hopes to make an impact.
At 6’3 and 210 lbs, defenseman Kyle Nichols will look to fill the hole on the blueline left by Jordan Little. With some WHL experience and a full season with the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL, Nichols proved to be a rugged customer by collecting 181 minutes in penalties in just 52 games.
Jon Cara comes to Manitoba from the BCHL where he helped take the Penticton Vees past the first round of the playoffs. The winger had 34 points for the Vees in 2004-05 and also has two years of WHL experience under his belt as well.
Just recently the Bisons also announced the signings of two more players. Nicloas Cowan played two seasons with the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the QMJHL where he racked up more penalty minutes than offensive numbers. Joining Cowan is Andrew Skrabek who played with the Yorkton Terriers of the SJHL after two years with Flin Flon.
Although none of the new recruits are considered offensive dynamos, head coach Mike Sirant likes the character and personalities if them all and expects they will fit in with his core of players after their successful 2004-05 season that saw them reach the University Cup tournament in Edmonton.
The Regina Cougars have announced that they will have a new coach for next season in the in the form of Blaine Sautner. Coming up from the ranks of the SJHL, Sautner is the eighth coach in Cougars history.
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