YARMOUTH, N.S. – Given the long playoff run to the league final the Yarmouth Mariners had last season, it doesn't seem like hockey ended that long ago.
But the team is on the verge of starting a new season and that process gets underway this week with the opening of training camp.
Head coach Laurie Barron said last year’s successful run for the Mariners certainly helped when it came to recruitment in the off season.
“I really like the look of our club,” he says heading into this week’s camp that will get underway with a meet and greet for players and families on Aug. 23.
There will be some overlap between the training camp and the Mariners summer camp for minor hockey players happening this week so Friday, Aug. 24, will just see some fitness testing and some practices for those at the Jr. A camp.
More practices are planned for Saturday and Sunday with intersquad games also slated for 7 p.m. on Aug. 25 and on Aug. 26. (The Yarmouth Mariners Facebook page had advertised the game as starting at 5 p.m. but the Mariners Centre schedule says the game will actually run from 3-5 p.m.)
In keeping with a tradition that’s been struck at camp, the training camp teams have been named after Mariners alumni, with this year’s teams being Team Zack Henry and Team Kyle Campbell.
Exhibition games also make up camp. The Mariners will be on the road Aug. 29 to play South Shore and Aug. 31 to play Valley.
The team is at home on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. against South Shore and at home on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. to host Valley.
Barron says there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation heading into training camp.
“Obviously two things from last year, it was a great run, so everybody is excited and it was a good feeling, but we were two games short,” he says, referring to the team’s loss in Game 6 of the best-of-seven-game league championship final versus the Edmundston Blizzard.
“The guys that got a taste of it that are returning obviously want to find a way to get those last two games,” he says.
“And I found there was a lot of excitement as far as new players wanting to be a part of it,” he says about recruitment.
Barron says there is always pressure on any team during the season, but maybe added pressure this year.
“We got the one banner last year,” he says, referring to the division championship. “But we’d like to have two this year.”
Part of any training camp also depends on how things end up at QMJHL training camps. Six of the players the Mariners have on their training camp roster and would like to have at camp were at Q camps last week. Barron said last week the team was keeping a close eye on those camps and where players would land. Attending Q camps were Brendan Cregan (goalie), Logan Timmons (a Mariners forward), Sam Gillis (their 2018 first draft pick), Brendan Sibley (a territorial draft pick with local ties), Kaleb Boudreau (Mariners D) and Daniel Surette.
Speaking in general terms about the players on the Mariners training camp roster, Barron says he likes the back end, “our D looks very good,” and the same can be said for upfront. The Brett Crossley acquisition in the off season is one Barron highlights. Crossley played with the Halifax Mooseheads the last four seasons.
“We lost a lot of really good players last year, you don’t get to the finals without having a lot of really good veteran players,” Barron says.
“We think we’ve filed those spots with solid players,” he adds. “I think this training camp will probably be the most competitive one I’ve been involved with in the fact that I think I’ve got 26 to 28 guys that can all play junior.”
It’s a good problem to have, he says, when you’re filling a roster.
Exhibition home games are slated for Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Barron adds there are a good number of local players who will be at camp. There are returning players Matt Barron and Kaleb Boudreau from Yarmouth County and Christopher Goreham from Shelburne County.
The club has also extended training camp invites to many local major midget players who played with the South Shore Mustangs last season. Forward Ben Charles is a territorial draft pick for the Mariners. Also coming to camp are players Max Nickerson and Brendan Amiro (Yarmouth County) and Mario Boudreau (Clare). Nolan MacDonald (Yarmouth County) who was an affiliate with the Mustangs will be at camp as well.
Yarmouth County player Ryan Semple who played with the Mustangs last year is attending the South Shore Lumberjacks camp.
Barron said last week they had 6 goalies, 16 defensemen and 24 forwards on paper for camp.
While there’s plenty of players to choose from at camp, one thing the team needs more of is billet families for training camp and the season. Anyone who can help out on this front is encouraged to contact Cindy MacNeill at 902-740-2327 or Laurie Barron at 902-740-1426.
Season tickets are also on sale.