Rebuilding or reloading?

Jody Jewers
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Plenty of questions as Ramblers open training camp

AMHERST - So which "r" is it?
Are the Amherst Ramblers reloading or rebuilding as they enter their 42nd season in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League? Cases can be made on both sides.
The Ramblers have the potential to return 14 players from last year's club that held a 2-1 lead against perennial powerhouse Truro Bearcats in the best-of-seven Bent Division final before imploding down the stretch thanks in large part to an inability to stay out of the penalty box, and those returnees likely have another "r" word (redemption) on their minds. Head coach and general manager Corey Crocker made a couple of deals at the June draft to improve their depth and add grit at forward, acquiring Simon Bissonnette from Halifax and Scott Bragg from Woodstock.
But the lack of veteran presence on this club is apparent as it begins training camp Saturday at the Stadium. The Ramblers have just two 20-year-olds and seven 19-year-olds on their 43-man training camp roster.
Gone are workhorse goalie Andrew Flemming, franchise scoring leader Matthew Squires, team captain Travis Turner and top-six forwards Paul Roebothan and Adam Verrette, along with power-play quarterback Kelan Herr, assistant captain Richard Belliveau and stay-at-home defender Andrew Shears from the blueline.
"Our team is finally out of the Jack Finlay era," said Crocker. "These are our picks and these are players we're trying to develop. We'll be young, but the guys that we have are good players."
There are no guarantees that some of the Ramblers' top prospects will be wearing purple and white this season. Second-year forward Kody Orr has forsaken his NCAA eligibility by remaining at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads' camp, where he is still in the hunt for a roster spot. Centre Devon Muir, a third-round pick, remains with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Bissonnette is trying out with the Lewiston Maineiacs.
Some Ramblers have recently returned from QMJHL camps. Forward Justin Matthews was an invitee of the Moncton Wildcats, as was forward Trevor Layton by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Defenceman Wes Herrett, Cape Breton's ninth-round pick in June, was in the running for a spot as their seventh defenceman but opted to leave, figuring more minutes were available in Amherst. Flemming's heir apparent, Jonathan Waye, left the P.E.I. Rocket camp Tuesday. Julien Daigle, Amherst's fifth-round pick in June and a candidate for the backup spot to Waye, was at Moncton's camp. First-round draft pick Dylan Brake was released by the Saint John Sea Dogs last weekend.
Off the ice, the club has also had to deal with squabbling among executive members and the resignation and un-resignation of team president George Baker. Average attendance has fallen from 1,040 in 2005-06 to 737 in 2008-09 during the regular season, yet the team has managed to remain afloat financially.
Crocker's philosophy is to build a program that can consistently contend. But without major corporate sponsorship on a community-owned team and with a dysfunctional executive plagued by personality conflicts, the build has been a slow one.
"We'll look to be active where we can as far as improving our team goes," Crocker said. "Our hands are pretty much tied financially, but we have some equity built up in the depth of our roster that we can use.
"We have a very good group of younger players, and if we can improve our financial stability for when that group is a couple years older, we can probably make a run."
Crocker said the first round of cuts would likely be made following Tuesday's preseason home opener against the Dieppe Commandos. The final roster will probably consist of 22 or 23 players.

Amherst Ramblers training camp roster and schedule (subject to change; x - denotes returnee, y - attending Quebec Major Junior Hockey League camp):
Goaltenders (7)
x-Jonathan Waye; Andrew Caines, St. John's, N.L., major midget; Tyler Ferdinand, prep school; Devon Cudmore, Cornwall, P.E.I., major midget; Julien Daigle, Miramichi, N.B., major midget; Spencer Scott, Cole Harbour major midget; Nathan Kelly, Cumberland minor midget AAA.
Defencemen (10)
x-Derek Smith; x-Eric Boudreau; x-Drew McLaughlin; Justin Landry, Cumberland County junior B; Paden Lennie, Inuvik; Wes Herrett, Pictou County major midget; Dylan Brake, St. John's, N.L., major midget; Cole Wood, Pictou County major midget; Greg Taylor, Tri-Pen, N.L., major midget; Brandon Mercer, Tri-Pen, N.L., major midget.
Forwards (26)
x-Adam Chipman; x-Jonathan Pardy; x-Zach Carson; x-Jeremy Barron; Jordie Shaw, Cumberland County junior B; Derick Miles, Winchester, Ont., junior B; x-Justin Matthews; x-Trevor Layton; y-Simon Bissonnette, Halifax Lions; Scott Bragg, Woodstock Slammers; x-Josh Coleman; x-Shane O'Byrne; Kodi Estey, Leo Hayes H.S.; Daniel McNeil, Moncton major midget; Corbyn Gallagher, Yarmouth H.S.; Scott Lowe, Toronto midget AAA; Anthony Cummiskey, Charlottetown midget AA; xy-Kody Orr; Mitchell O'Neill, Appleby College; Jesse Colborne, Pictou County major midget; y-Devon Muir, Cape Breton major midget; Matthew Canning, Central N.L., major midget; Marcus Manson, Miramichi, N.B., major midget; Michael Clarke, Cole Harbour major midget; Alex Berry, Cape Breton West major midget; Luke Warner, Pictou County major midget.
11:30 a.m. - Practice (Team White)
Noon - Practice (Team Black)
3 p.m. - Goalie session
6 p.m. - Practice (Team White)
7:30 p.m. - Practice (Team Black)
10 a.m. - Intersquad game
3 p.m. - Goalie session
7 p.m. - Intersquad game
9 a.m. -- Practice (Team Black)
10:15 a.m. - Practice (Team White)
7 p.m. - Intersquad game
10 a.m. - Practice (players not dressing for exhibition game)
7:30 p.m. - Exhibition game vs. Dieppe at Amherst
10 a.m. - Practice
6:30 p.m. - Practice
10 a.m. - Practice (players not dressing for exhibition game)
7:30 p.m. - Exhibition game vs. Dieppe at Dieppe
Friday, Sept. 4
6:30 p.m. - Practice
Saturday, Sept. 5
10 a.m. - Practice (players not dressing for exhibition game)
7 p.m. - Exhibition game vs. Dieppe at Amherst
Sunday, Sept. 6
2 p.m. - Exhibition game vs. Dieppe at Dieppe

Organizations: Appleby College, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Maritime Junior A Hockey League NCAA Devon Muir

Geographic location: AMHERST, Cape Breton West, Pictou County Moncton St. John's Miramichi Cumberland County Cornwall Inuvik Winchester Toronto Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • vincent
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    Hopeully the team will mold into an offesnive/defensive powerhouse this season and bring thrilling hockey once
    again to the Amherst stadium.
    Best of luck to all players who did and
    did not make the team. Enjoy your

  • Rob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    Hey Vince, it's nice to see you on the board, you always did a great job running our ball teams in Gagetown. And your hockey teams in Bridgewater were no slouch either, you coached some of the top coaches in this league and you also coached a guy by the name of Glen Murray. You will bring a few laughs to the board and you will also bring a wealth of knowlege.