SUDBURY, Ont. – With nearly half of their total roster returning to compete on Centennial Arena ice, and throughout the entire Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League this season, optimism is high for the Elliot Lake Wildcats.
Busily formalizing their line-up through on-ice sessions, and the like, heading into their preseason opener Thursday at Blind River, Elliot Lake aims to continue the winning ways they featured in the latter half of last season’s schedule as they look to improve on a 23-26-4-3 record in 2016-17.
The Wildcats were a formidable opponent in the second half of last season where they played nicely over .500 hockey from the beginning of January due to some nifty acquisitions and the line-up buying into the systems taught be the coaching staff.
Guiding the fortunes of Elliot Lake on the ice once again is Corey Bricknell, who is beginning his second season at the helm as the Wildcats head coach. It will also be his first full campaign as general manager.
A big portion of the Wildcats’ program achieves success off the ice as well as they remain heavily involved in the community.
Led by team president Howard Hennessy, the entire Elliot Lake organization continues to do their part with a multitude of charitable and worthwhile causes both throughout the season as well as during the spring and summer months.
The first of 12 NOJHL member club team preseason previews for 2017-18 features the Elliot Lake Wildcats.
Head Coach/GM – Corey Bricknell
NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2017-18 season?
COREY BRICKNELL: We have 11 players returning this season so the nucleus is there. We hope to have a great year.
NOJHL: Give us your thoughts on what you’ve seen during on-ice sessions and what you expect to see in future skates be it practice, scrimmages or games.
CB: All the guys have been working hard on and off the ice. We’ve been active with instilling the systems we plan to use throughout the year as well as working on our power play and penalty killing units. The team practices in the mornings and we’ve played mini games and held scrimmages in the evening.
NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?
CB: Among our group of returnees we feel can lead us are forwards Nick Long, Evan Spencer and Taylor Bucsis. Long is a 20-year-old from Pennsylvania. He and Bucsis tied for the team lead in power play goals last season, so we expect them to lead the way again when we’re on the man advantage. Bucsis, who we picked him up midway through last season from Dryden (SIJHL) averaged nearly a point-per-game for us with 24 in 26 games. He’s from Saskatoon and will turn 20 in November. As for Spencer, he’s still just 17 and he also played very well for us after we acquired him from the Aurora Tigers (OJHL). He only played 21 games, but he scored 10 times and had 10 assists.
NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with early on?
CB: A couple of our newcomers we’ve liked so far are Brett Lannin and Logan Freiburger. Lannin is an 18-year-old defenceman who played for the Winchester Hawks (CCHL2) in the Ottawa area. He played 48 games and had 11 points from the back-end. Freiburger is a centre we picked up from the Pelham Panthers (GOJHL). He’s 19 and a good set-up guy who had four goals and 14 assists in 48 games. He was also close to a point-per-game in the playoffs.
NOJHL: What are you looking to build upon from last season?
CB: We want to build on our second half of last year. From January on we were nicely over .500 (11-6-2-2) and we were basically in every game we played in the second half.
NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the preseason and the start of the regular season?
CB: We want to play consistently every game and play hard every game.
WILDCATS’ PRESEASON GAMES
Aug. 31 @ Blind River 7:30 p.m. (Community Centre)
Sept. 1 vs. Blind River 7 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
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