Blackhawks set to work hard
Thorold Blackhawks head coach and owner Scott Barnes hasn’t seen his full team in a regular season game situation yet, but has high hopes for the upcoming Golden Horseshoe season.
The Hawks begin the regular season Friday with a 10:30 a.m. game versus the Cambridge Redhawks in Pelham at the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Showcase Tournament.
The Hawks return about a dozen players from last season’s squad which finished in fifth place with a 23-23-1-4 record.
“I think we have a mixture of everything,” Barnes said. “We have a little bit of size this year which we haven’t had the last couple of years, and I think we’ve improved on our skill level. We’ve improved on our balance of veteran guys this year. We’ve been young the last couple of years and I think we’ve got more experience.”
Barnes, who is entering his third season as owner/coach, is confident work ethic won’t be an issue.
“I think we have a bunch of guys in there who work hard. We have a really strong work ethic. I think that’s probably our identity.
“We have 20 guys who I think are willing to do whatever they have to do to help the team.”
The Hawks appear set in goal where Noah Fortuna and Chase Grsic return from last season and should form a solid duo between the pipes.
Nick Gidney, Austin Jensen and Darcy Redwood are back on the blueline while Dylan Laddy, Bailey Stumpo, Blair Jenkins, Trevor Neumann, Cam Lightfoot, Carson Eden, Nick Rubino and Sam VanDerZalm all return up front.
Barnes has also added former Hawk Mitch Britton, back from a season in Tier 2 junior A, centre Dylan Scriver, and Erie Otters draft pick Brett Bressette.
“He’s a really good player,” Barnes said of Bressette. “He figures to get some time with the Otters.”
Bressette, a 5-foot-8, 155-pound forward, was selected by Erie 65th overall in the fourth round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. The Midland native posted 10 points in 10 games with the North Central Predators last season before suffering season-ending injuries.
The Hawks have been working overtime to get ready for Friday’s opener.
“We went hard last week. We went five days of two hours a day at least,” Barnes said.
Still, the first week of September is early to play a regular season game.
“It would be so much nicer if it was a week or two later and you’re running more smoothly,” Barnes said. “It’s tough, especially with our time starts. We have terrible times. It’s going to be interesting. We have three days of practice for everybody to get on the same page. I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect game. We’ll see what we have, but it’s the same for everybody.”
The Hawks also play the Lasalle Vipers Sunday at 8 a.m.
Barnes will once again be assisted by Tom Longland, Lucas Smilsky and Chris Goulet.
Gone from last season are forwards Evan Miller, Mario Zitella, Riley Sutherland, Alex Mourani and defencemen Devon Thibodeau, Michael Craig and Jonathan Balah.
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