Falcons load up for championship run
The St. Catharines Falcons added three key players at the trade deadline. From left, Jacob Kelly, Noah Battaglia and Bryce Robertson. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
St. Catharines Falcons coach/general manager Frank Girhiny was able to check off all the boxes on his want list at the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League trade deadline last week.
Girhiny added goaltender Noah Battaglia, defenceman Bryce Robertson and forward Jacob Kelly to an already strong roster.
“Heading into the deadline, we thought we had some needs that had to be addressed and we were able to fill those needs, so we’re quite pleased,” Girhiny said.
Battaglia may be the key.
The 18-year-old Toronto native began the season with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League before moving on to Milton of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
He made his Falcons debut Saturday in a 5-2 win a Buffalo where he kicked out 36 shots.
“He has a real calming influence, even in practice. Puck placements and his positioning and his calmness, it’s exactly what we needed with Jack (McGovern) being a good goalie,” Girhiny said.
Battaglia should get the bulk of the playing time come the playoffs, although McGovern has shown to be a more than capable backstop in his rookie season.
The club released Dylan Lamarche, who began the season as the No. 1 netminder.
“I brought him in to be my No. 1 goalie and it just wasn’t working out. He couldn’t find that groove to where we thought he needed to be,” Girhiny said.
Battaglia is happy to be a Falcon.
“It’s a great group of guys that want to win and that’s what I was looking for coming back down,” Battaglia. “I didn’t care if it was junior A or junior B, I just wanted to go to a team that was going to go on a playoff run and help that team in any way I could.”
Battaglia isn’t concerned if he is the No. 1 or backup at this point.
“I’m just focused on playing my own game just like I have been my whole life,” he said. “I play each game the same way every game.”
Kelly, an 18-year-old Barrie native, was with the Guelph Storm in training camp and nearly joined the Falcons, but opted for Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where he netted a pair of goals in 20 games played.
“I’m pretty excited to get some ice time, put up some points, and overall just win a championship with these guys, hopefully,” he said. “Getting the ice time I got in the last few games has really been fun and all the guys here and nice and supportive.”
Kelly admitted it was difficult to find his groove with Rimouski.
“I was scratched for every other game or a fourth line kind of thing,” he said. “Here, my development will be better.”
Kelly had 35 goals last year with Elliott Lake Norther Junior League.
“He’s a goal scorer. You can just see he has a knack around the puck,” Girhiny said. “He’s very strong on the puck and a very good IQ as well. As he gets more acclimatized to the team, the scoring will be there.”
Robertson, a 19-year-old Ancaster native, was the captain of the Avs last season. He began the year in Trenton but was hurt and eventually ended up in junior C.
“He’s a high character young man, exactly what we were looking for,” Girhiny said. “He competes really hard and he’s a captain by trade. He has a very good shot and competes heavy which you need when you’re playing every other day in the playoffs.”
Robertson and the Avs lost in seven games to the Falcons in the Golden Horseshoe playoffs last season.
“At first it was a little weird,” he smiled, when asked about playing for St. Catharines. “They are all good guys off the ice. Guys you hate to play against, but love to be on the team with.”
Robertson is thrilled to be in a position to compete for a championship.
“It feels good to be on a team that cares about winning,” he said. “(Just) knowing that everyone has the same goal in mind at the end of the year and that it is something we can reach, rather than something that will never happen. It’s reasonable and I think we can do it.”
Girhiny loves the make up of his roster, but is well aware adding players at the deadline doesn’t guarantee anything.
“It’s a crapshoot,” he said. “These players checked off all the boxes. In the previous years, we brought in all high-end players and high-end guys, but I’m not sure they checked off all the boxes.
“Does it guaranteed us a championship? No. Has it made our team stronger? Absolutely. Has it made our room better based on the quality of individuals there are? It sure has.”
The Falcons, who trail the Niagara Falls Canucks by three points for first place with a game in hand, host the Canucks Friday and then visit Niagara Falls Sunday at 3 p.m.
On the right side of our web site, you will notice a yellow SUPPORT US button.
We are asking anyone who finds value in our work and is able to financially help us to click on the button and contribute whatever amount you feel is appropriate and can afford. There is no set amount. Any amount is appreciated.
The funds collected will be used to enhance and offset the expenses of running the web site.