AMHERST – While there are still a few holes remaining to be filled, Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers’ coach Jim Bottomley likes his team.
The Ramblers are on the road today to open the 2013 Maritime Junior Hockey League regular season against the Valley Wildcats, who relocated to Kentville from Dartmouth after last season.
The club returns to the Amherst Stadium on Saturday to host the Woodstock Slammers in the home opener at 7 p.m. before hosting the Miramichi Timberwolves on Sunday in the finale of a tough three games in three days start to the season.
“It’s a tough way to start the season, but we’ll definitely see what we’re made of,” Bottomley said. “Hopefully we’ll start the year with six points right off the bat and there’s no reason why we can’t.”
Several key members are gone from last year’s squad that knocked off the Yarmouth Mariners in the opening round of the Eastlink Division playoffs before bowing out in the divisional final in six games to the Truro Bearcats.
Captain Kody Orr, Ben Berisha, Maxime Richard, Jacob Conrad, Jeff MacPherson, Patrick Harrison, Morgan Walker and Mitch O’Neill all graduated, while Josh Pugsley moved on to the Moncton Wildcats and Danny Harquail decided to stay in Ontario.
Despite this, the club has a solid core of returnees especially on the backend where goalies Richard Tingley and Chase Marchand are back along with defencemen Jamie Bishop, Cam McDonald, Ben MacDonald, Willie MacDonald and Kyle Beckwith. Returning forwards include Brock Morrison, Brett Shute, Robert Davis, Shawn Wright, Ryan Caswell and Serge Boisvert (who split between Amherst and Cumberland County Blues last season).
Newcomers include forwards Nick Cass from Fredericton, John Deacon from the Valley, Damon McEachern (acquired on draft day from Valley), Zack MacEwan from Charlottetown, Blake Millman from the Quebec Remparts, MacKenzie Young from Citadel High school in Halifax and Ross Martin (picked up earlier this week from the Miramichi Timberwolves.
The club released forward Nick Skerlick earlier this week and sent both 16-year-old defencemen Duncan McKie and Lucas Sangster back to major midget.
“During the exhibition schedule we played guys in different situations to see what they could do, now that we have an idea of what they can it’s up to them to work hard to stay there,” Bottomley said. “We have some definite needs going into the season and it’s something we’re going to continue to address as the season goes on.”
Bottomley. “We certainly want to be competitive and have that same work ethic we had last year.”
Looking at the division this year, Bottomley said things are again going to be so close that every regular season game will be like the playoffs.