By Ken Pagan
Monday night junior hockey is back at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena — but first, the season-opening GOJHL showcase will fill the weekend itinerary.
The Hamilton Kilty B’s officially open their GOJHL regular season on Friday during the league showcase in Pelham, where they will face the Komoka Kings at 1:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Kilty B’s return to Pelham for an 11 a.m. tilt against the Elmira Sugar Kings.
The buzz at home at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena picks up on Monday for the home-opener, with the rival St. Catharines Falcons visiting at 7 p.m.
Kilty B’s vice-president/general manager Brian Rizzetto is eager to see how the young club — forward Fred Teeple is the lone returnee from last season’s squad — comes together early in the season. Rizzetto said the players themselves will determine where they slot in on the depth chart in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to give them every opportunity to succeed,” Rizzetto said after Thursday’s final pre-season practice. “We think we have 12 really good forwards who will find their way. We’ve decided to go with eight defencemen, so there are going to be a couple waiting to get in the lineup.
“We’re young, we love our goaltending, but we don’t want to get too high when things are going good or too low when things aren’t going well. We just want to be the team we need to be on Feb. 28, when we start the playoffs.”
With several players having signed out of the club’s spring evaluation camp, the season-opening roster has been trimmed down during a two-week training camp and pre-season schedule that opened Aug. 19.
The Kilty B’s will open the season with a group of forwards that includes Teeple and fellow 2000-born veteran Andrew Salt helping show the way for rookies Jacob MacDonald, Steven LaForme, Yon Shimpo, Jacob McEachern, Christian Pelley, Nolan Underwood, Terry Bridgland, Tanner Bibby, Ellis Rickwood and Justin Monteith.
On the blue-line, the Kilty B’s will be led by Jordan Van Hunnik, Matt Homer, Cameron Gauvreau, Peyton Adams-Matthews, Chris Black, Adam Clark, Mark Benn and Scott Malloy.
In net, the tandem of Matteo Drobac and Justin Easter will backstop the club. Drobac, 16, a sixth-round draft pick of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs last spring, recently signed a commitment with the OHL club, but is likely to spend the season developing with the Kilty B’s.
Rizzetto said he likes how the group has come together so far off the ice, and is hoping that growth as a team translates on the ice.
“Any team I’ve had success with was never successful on the ice unless they were successful off the ice,” said Rizzetto, who captured multiple division titles and a Sutherland Cup as GM of the powerhouse Caledonia Corvairs. “What we’re seeing already is a good group of kids in the room, so I’m hoping they’ll have each other’s backs and that means pushing each other and trying to find the positives in what we’re doing.
“And I like John’s (head coach Barrett) approach with them – he’s hands-on and he’s going to run the team. I see some kids who will take the next step. I do see some talent there.”