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New season, new look


NEW GLASGOW – There are a lot of new faces this season around the Weeks Crushers’ locker room, which is a breath of fresh air according to head coach Jason Malone.

Their offseason was busy with numerous trades and commitments helping to bring their roster plan together for their regular season opener last week.

It also started with the acquisition of defenceman Justin McDonald, 20, from the Dieppe Commandos in May and ended with commitments from forwards Mike Lyle and Cole Murphy in August.

In the midst of those moves they received Evan Morrison, 19, from the Summerside Capitals for Mitchell Shewfelt; forward Luc Poirier, 17, from the Bridgewater Lumberjacks; forward Daniel Walsh, 20, from the Amherst Ramblers for Tanner McCabe and a first round pick, and Willie MacDonald, 20, for the playing rights to Ryan Yould and a third round pick in 2015.

“The offseason was a lot of work, I think we had to put in a lot of time and effort into our draft preparation and trying to make sure we were drafting properly to secure the future of the program, as well as making sure we were executing a plan for this season,” said Malone. “Everybody who was involved in that process did an outstanding job and at the end of the day we needed to recreate a culture in our room and added some veteran guys and got some guys back from major junior hockey that breathes fresh life into our program, which is much needed.”

Right now it’s unclear what all those moves will mean in the big picture. Malone said the organization is confident in the roster they have, but wouldn’t comment on where he believes they will finish in the Eastlink Division standings. Last season they finished second, four points back of the first place Truro Bearcats.

“We're really not too focused on that, we’re just focused on Thursday night, Bridgewater, and making sure that we have the right type of plan in place for them,” said Malone. “Instead of looking at where we fit in the standings we want to execute a solid game plan and make sure we’re as prepared as we can be for that. We want to win as many hockey games as we can and wherever that puts us at the end of the year we have to deal with that.”

This season the MHL has shortened the regular season schedule to 48 games, down four from 52, where it was for the past three years. This is a one-year trial, with one of the primary reasons for reducing the schedule being that the league wanted to allow for more games to be played closer to and over the weekend in an effort to entice players of university age to commit to playing in the league.

Malone said the change won’t majorly affect the team, but said it adds a little more importance to each game.

“It makes every game that much more important because you lose a potential eight points by shortening the season and the ability to make points up later in the year is obviously a lot tougher, so in terms of the organization I don't think it does a whole lot,” said Malone. “In terms of your players and staff you realize how important every night is and any point that you can get is a necessary one. Hopefully our guys have that mindset going into every game.”

Thursday night Pictou County goes into their second home game with a 2-0 record. Hosting the Bridgewater Lumberjacks they hope their streak continues.

Right now there is still work to be done, but there’s a lot of positive vibes going around the room – the group feels they’re moving in the right direction.

“We feel pretty good, but there’s work to be done as usual,” said Malone. “We have two wins to start the year, which is nice, but you have to be realistic and set realistic goals for the group. What we notice as a staff and what players have noticed is the work ethic is there every day, the energy is there and we’ve done a lot of away-from-the-rink bonding in terms of team building. The guys feel that has gone a long way in terms of creating a family type of culture within the room.”

Looking at the early start to the season, specifically at attendance, the MHL’s draw has been strong thus far. Pictou County had 872 at their home opener, St. Stephen had 1,384, Amherst packed in 2,088 and Yarmouth saw 1,501 fans go through their doors. Bridgewater had 541 fans watch home opener, while the Valley put over 425 into their new home last Friday.

“I think it’s (MHL) looking bright, it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of teams that have added new facilities over the years, fan bases are up and every team is putting so much time and effort in as an organization to ensure their product on the ice is something their fan base can be proud of,” said Malone. “It takes time and a lot of energy from volunteers, board members – there’s just so much time that goes into running a junior A program. St. Stephen had a rough start to their season, but it’s good to have an additional team in the league in New Brunswick and I think the state of the league is very secure right now.”

 

christopher.cameron@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsChris

Their offseason was busy with numerous trades and commitments helping to bring their roster plan together for their regular season opener last week.

It also started with the acquisition of defenceman Justin McDonald, 20, from the Dieppe Commandos in May and ended with commitments from forwards Mike Lyle and Cole Murphy in August.

In the midst of those moves they received Evan Morrison, 19, from the Summerside Capitals for Mitchell Shewfelt; forward Luc Poirier, 17, from the Bridgewater Lumberjacks; forward Daniel Walsh, 20, from the Amherst Ramblers for Tanner McCabe and a first round pick, and Willie MacDonald, 20, for the playing rights to Ryan Yould and a third round pick in 2015.

“The offseason was a lot of work, I think we had to put in a lot of time and effort into our draft preparation and trying to make sure we were drafting properly to secure the future of the program, as well as making sure we were executing a plan for this season,” said Malone. “Everybody who was involved in that process did an outstanding job and at the end of the day we needed to recreate a culture in our room and added some veteran guys and got some guys back from major junior hockey that breathes fresh life into our program, which is much needed.”

Right now it’s unclear what all those moves will mean in the big picture. Malone said the organization is confident in the roster they have, but wouldn’t comment on where he believes they will finish in the Eastlink Division standings. Last season they finished second, four points back of the first place Truro Bearcats.

“We're really not too focused on that, we’re just focused on Thursday night, Bridgewater, and making sure that we have the right type of plan in place for them,” said Malone. “Instead of looking at where we fit in the standings we want to execute a solid game plan and make sure we’re as prepared as we can be for that. We want to win as many hockey games as we can and wherever that puts us at the end of the year we have to deal with that.”

This season the MHL has shortened the regular season schedule to 48 games, down four from 52, where it was for the past three years. This is a one-year trial, with one of the primary reasons for reducing the schedule being that the league wanted to allow for more games to be played closer to and over the weekend in an effort to entice players of university age to commit to playing in the league.

Malone said the change won’t majorly affect the team, but said it adds a little more importance to each game.

“It makes every game that much more important because you lose a potential eight points by shortening the season and the ability to make points up later in the year is obviously a lot tougher, so in terms of the organization I don't think it does a whole lot,” said Malone. “In terms of your players and staff you realize how important every night is and any point that you can get is a necessary one. Hopefully our guys have that mindset going into every game.”

Thursday night Pictou County goes into their second home game with a 2-0 record. Hosting the Bridgewater Lumberjacks they hope their streak continues.

Right now there is still work to be done, but there’s a lot of positive vibes going around the room – the group feels they’re moving in the right direction.

“We feel pretty good, but there’s work to be done as usual,” said Malone. “We have two wins to start the year, which is nice, but you have to be realistic and set realistic goals for the group. What we notice as a staff and what players have noticed is the work ethic is there every day, the energy is there and we’ve done a lot of away-from-the-rink bonding in terms of team building. The guys feel that has gone a long way in terms of creating a family type of culture within the room.”

Looking at the early start to the season, specifically at attendance, the MHL’s draw has been strong thus far. Pictou County had 872 at their home opener, St. Stephen had 1,384, Amherst packed in 2,088 and Yarmouth saw 1,501 fans go through their doors. Bridgewater had 541 fans watch home opener, while the Valley put over 425 into their new home last Friday.

“I think it’s (MHL) looking bright, it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of teams that have added new facilities over the years, fan bases are up and every team is putting so much time and effort in as an organization to ensure their product on the ice is something their fan base can be proud of,” said Malone. “It takes time and a lot of energy from volunteers, board members – there’s just so much time that goes into running a junior A program. St. Stephen had a rough start to their season, but it’s good to have an additional team in the league in New Brunswick and I think the state of the league is very secure right now.”

 

christopher.cameron@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsChris

In Thursday's edition of The News there is a special feature showcasing each player with a headshot, plus a little info to get to know them better. 

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