Habs set sights on NEAJBHL top five
Another season is set to begin for the St. Paul Canadiens, and returning head coach Joe Young said that he will be looking for strength on the back end at the team’s open training camp from Sept. 20-22.
“We definitely want to get better on the back end. I thought that was kind of our weaker point last year, and think it was proven by the shot totals on some nights. We definitely have to get better back there,” said Young.
“I’d also like to see a little bit more scoring, so we want to add a little bit more speed up front. We just need everybody to come in with a little more hunger this year . . . That’s going to be a great help because with not scoring many goals last year it was tough to win hockey games, but I think we’re going to score a lot more this year and guys are going to pay the price a lot more as well.”
Young added that a core of around 17 players will be returning to the roster this season, all of whom now have playoff experience against the Cold Lake Ice under their belts, and Young says that added camaraderie and experience will be a vital factor in moving on to the next stage in the franchise’s rebuilding process.
“That’s a great core coming back from last year, and we’re going to add a few more guys at tryouts, we do have some spots to fill obviously. We just wanted to upgrade a little bit but we wanted to keep the core group together from last year with it being kind of a rebuilding year, you’ve got to keep the guys together after one year of experience and they all showed they’re really committed,” he said. “I think what people will notice is that we’re going to be a much better team our second year with every guy having a year under their belt.”
Austin Rediron, 2012-13 NEAJBHL Rookie of the Year, will be returning between the pipes for the Canadiens this season, and Young says that a healthy Rediron coupled with some added strength on the blue line to limit the shot totals will bring a great deal of promise to the Habs.
“A healthy Austin Rediron is going to be huge for us,” Young said, adding that Rediron has shaken off the ankle injury he suffered late last season. “I’ve talked to him throughout the summer, he’s been skating and his ankle is feeling great.”
The Canadiens will also be hosting games in Elk Point and Lac La Biche this season, as a number of Habs players come from those areas, and as Young points out, it will raise interest in the team for upcoming minor hockey players.
“I think it’s good to get out and play one or two games in a different community just to show the product in our league, and also you get some minor hockey players from other towns coming to watch the games. The interest does peak, and you never know if they’re going to give you a call,” he said. “We have some guys from Lac La Biche and Elk Point on our team, so obviously they get really excited to be able to play at home for once.”
Once again, the NEAJBHL will have a new look this season, as the Onion Lake Jr. Border Chiefs will enter as the ninth team, leaving one elimination spot in the league come playoff time.
Last season the Habs entered the post season as the last place team, but put forth a strong showing against the eventual champion Cold Lake Ice, despite falling in four games. Young said that this season, he and the Canadiens will not only have their eyes set on a playoff spot, but a top five finish in the standings.
“I definitely think its experience that’s going to be on our team this year (that will be the difference),” he said. “We’ve got some commitment from some boys who came in toward the end of the year last year who are starting this year, which is going to be a huge help for us,” he said.
The NEAJBHL will be separated into three divisions for the 2013-14 season. The North division, featuring the Canadiens, the Saddle Lake Warriors and the Cold Lake Ice, the South East division, featuring the Vermilion Tigers, Lloydminster Bandits and Onion Lake Jr. Border Chiefs, and the South West division of the Killam Wheat Kings, Vegreville Rangers and Wainwright Bisons.
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