New Amherst Ramblers coach Josh Hepditch will begin building his team for next season at the league draft in Summerside on Saturday.
AMHERST – The job of reshaping the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers will begin this weekend for new head coach Josh Hepditch.
After trading goalie Billy Clarke to the Valley Wildcats for draft picks last week and losing goalie Rowan O’Brien and forward Stephen Sisco to the expansion St. Stephen County Aces, Hepditch will begin putting his 2014-15 team together at the MHL draft in Summerside on Saturday.
“We have to find a few players that can step in this year. We lost a lot of firepower from last year’s team,” Hepditch said. “We lost nine or 10 20-year-olds and it’s going to be difficult to replace them.”
Hepditch was hired last month to replace Jim Bottomley, whose contract was terminated after the club was eliminated in the first round of the MHL playoffs by the Weeks Crushers. Bottomley was later hired by the Yarmouth Mariners as its new coach and general manager.
As much as Hepditch will be looking for players to step in right away, he’s also looking to add some players who could play a role in future years.
“We have a decent number of picks so we should be able to get some quality,” he said.
He has also been in contact with the returning players and said they intend to return.
The Ramblers did not make any selections in the territorial draft after taking Brookdale’s Lucas Sangster last year. Doug Barton of Springhill played with the Weeks Major Midgets last year, but was not taken by the Ramblers as a territorial pick this year.
While he knows he has lots of holes to fill, Hepditch said the club will be competitive and he doesn’t consider the coming season to be a rebuilding year. He expects to do a lot of recruiting over the summer.
“At the end of the day, I’m looking to bring a championship to Amherst. Whether it’s the first, second or third year our goal is to win a championship,” Hepditch said.
The Ramblers still have Chase Marchand on their protected list and Hepditch is hoping he will return if he isn’t playing major junior. The club also has Riverview native Nathan Armstrong, who played junior hockey in Alberta last season, and it also has Tyler Whiffen, who the club acquired from Miramichi last season before being replaced as Richard Tingley’s backup by Clarke.
“There will also be goalies available in the draft,” he said.
Hepditch is pleased with the defensive nucleus eligible to return, including Kyle Beckwith, Willie MacDonald, Shane MacDonald and Travis Howe, but admitted there will be a challenge bringing in some offence. Daniel Walsh, Serge Boisvert, Nick Cass, Ryan Caswell, Zack MacEwan, Keegan Marcott and Ross Martin are eligible to return up front.
Looking ahead, Hepditch said he expects his players to be involved in the community as much as they can.
“They’re going to be out there and noticeable and taking part in their community,” he said.
NOTES: In other Rambler news, the team is organizing a four-on-four ball hockey tournament for all ages, based on minor hockey divisions. There will also be an adult division for age 20 and over.
The tournament will be Saturday, June 28, from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Amherst Stadium. Cost is $40 per team.
For more information, contact Jordan Hunter at 297-1088 or Jordan.firstname.lastname@example.org.