Canucks look to repeat
The names may have changed, but the goal is still the same for the Niagara Falls Canucks.
The defending Golden Horseshoe champions lost several key pieces from last season’s team through graduation or player movement.
Nevertheless, head coach/owner Frank Pietrangelo insists he’s looking to be in the mix to repeat.
“We’re here to win. That’s one thing about Niagara Falls. We’re no different from the other elite teams. We expect to win championships, that’s what we’re here for. It was extraordinary to have a season like that.
“This year our expectations are the same. It’s not easy to say that because we lose so much talent and so many players are gone, but our expectations on the players coming in are the same.”
The Canucks lost the likes of Jake Evans, Mitch Mendonca, Justin Kyle, Nick Prestia, Ryan Smith, Dillon Hill, David D’Agostino and goalie Zack Moore.
That is a ton of goals and experience to replace, but Pietrangelo isn’t concerned.
“You start the same way and you see how guys perform. Every year you just don’t know what players are going to take off and which ones aren’t,” he said. “A lot of guys were in secondary roles in the past and now they’re pushed into primary roles and can they fulfill those roles?
“We lost eight to graduation. The year before we lost nine to graduation. I think that’s the norm every year. Players are going to move on because it’s developmental hockey.”
Returning from last season’s squad are forwards Matthew Riva, Andrew Bruno, Ryan Donovan and Saginaw draft choice Owen Holmes.
Justin Schneider and Erik Becker are holdovers on defence while Anthony Tremonte is back in goal and will battle for time with newcomer Jack Brand, who played last season in Burlington.
Newcomers up front include former Canuck Max Lightfoot, who played last season in Burlington, and Anthony Issaris, who was in Stouffville last year.
“We expect big things from both of those guys,” Pietrangelo said.
The Canucks also picked up former St. Catharines Falcon Jaleel Adams.
“We always liked Jaleel and we all know what he brings. We’re excited to have him,” Pietrangelo said.
Rookie forward Tomas Lenart, who played a pair of games from the Canucks last season, will see full time duty this year after lighting it up for the Hamilton Bulldogs in major midget where he collected 21 goals and 51 points in 32 games.
“He’s looked really good in camp. He has good hands and good creativity. I think he’ll be a good player for us,” Pietrangelo said.
The Canucks begin regular season play Saturday in Pelham versus the Chatham Maroons at 1:30 p.m. as part of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Showcase Tournament. Niagara Falls also plays the Kitchener Dutchmen Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“We’re going to play and we’re all in the same boat,” Pietrangelo said. “We don’t even know what we have yet. We’re still trying to figure things out and work through lines. We just got guys back here over the weekend.
“It’s early but it’s no different for St. Catharines or Caledonia or anyone else.”
The Canucks host Hamilton Friday, Sept. 13 in their home opener.
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