CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers ready to return to work

New coach, younger team to open camp this weekend

Darrell Cole
Published on August 21, 2014

AMHERST – While disappointed his team will not host the Fred Page Cup tournament next season, new Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers coach Josh Hepditch remains committed to getting there.

As the Ramblers prepare to open training camp this weekend, Hepditch is looking to ice a competitive squad that will only get better as the season goes on and into next year, when Woodstock hosts the regional championship tournament.

“I’m looking forward to getting at it. We’re going to have about 40 players in camp, some of whom I know and some I don’t know,” Hepditch said Thursday. “I know there’s going to be some fierce competition for spots.”

Coming off a third-place finish in the Eastlink Division last year, the Ramblers lost a seven-game series to the Weeks Crushers. It was an offseason full of change that started just weeks after the playoffs with the decision by the board not to renew the contract of former head coach Jim Bottomley – who is now the coach and GM in Yarmouth.

The summer saw Hepditch trade several veteran players in preparation for what he hoped would be a run-up to hosting the Fred Page Cup next season. Among those gone are goalie Billy Clarke, Daniel Walsh, Willie MacDonald, Ryan Caswell and Ross Martin.

Hepditch a number of veterans are coming back including defencemen Shane MacDonald and Kyle Beckwith and forwards Serge Boisvert, Nick Cass and Zack MacEwen.

“It’s going to take some leadership from some of the guys that are coming back. We don’t have a lot of veterans coming back, but we have some good players returning and some pretty good players coming in,” Hepditch said.

He also has at least four players who played for him in British Columbia last season in camp while there are a few others at WHL training camps – not to mention those still in various Q camps.

“We have Lucas Sangster, who’s in the Charlottetown Islanders’ camp and a couple who are in Rouyn Noranda. We’d love to have any of those players, but as a coach you never hope a player gets cut from a higher level because that’s their ultimate dream,” Hepditch said. “We just hope they look at us as a Plan B. If they come back to us, that’s great. If they make it at a higher level that’s even better for them.”

Amherst just acquired the rights to Andrew Flynn for Moncton, who played in Swan Valley last season, while Nathan Armstrong, who also played in Swan Valley, will be among those vying for a spot on the club.

The club is also hoping to have Chase Marchand in goal, but he’s still in the Charlottetown Islanders’ camp, while Tyler Whiffen is expected in camp after being let go last week by Blainville-Boisville Armada.

Also in camp will be ARHS Vikings’ goalie and draft pick Evan MacKenzie, while Carly Jackson – who was recently named to Canada’s Under-18 Women’s Hockey Team – has also been invited to camp.

The team got a boost last week when Amherst resident Josh Pugsley decided not to report to the Moncton Wildcats and join the Ramblers for the upcoming season, while some of the players Hepditch drafted have been let go from various QMJHL camps and should make their way to Amherst.

Hepditch said Springhill’s Doug Barton has also been invited to camp.

“We’re going to be a hard working team that’s going to compete every night,” Hepditch said. “If you can do that it doesn’t matter what age you are. What it comes down to is who wants it more.”

Hepditch said having a younger team is going to be a challenge this year, but the goal remains putting a winning product on the ice. He was hoping to host the Fred Page Cup next year, but that doesn’t mean the outlook on the hockey side will change.

“We still have a plan to be a good hockey team and get there. That hasn’t changed. Even if we hosted we weren’t going to go in just as a host, we wanted to go in as champion and that’s still our plan,” he said.

Registration begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday with fitness testing on Sunday at noon.

On ice sessions begin Monday and continue through the week with an exhibition game in Amherst on Aug. 30 against the Dieppe Commandos and a game in Dieppe on Aug. 31.

The team is hosting a meet the coach and season ticket drive from 2 to 5 p.m. today at Maltby’s Once Again Sports on South Albion Street.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell


Training camp schedule

Saturday, Aug. 23

3 p.m. – Registration

Sunday, Aug. 24

10 a.m. – Training camp presentation

12 p.m. – Fitness Testing

5 p.m. – Barbecue

Monday, Aug. 25

9 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Boyle)

10:30 a.m. – On-Ice (Goalies)

11:15 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Martin)

8:15 p.m. – Inter-Squad Game

Tuesday, Aug. 26

9 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Martin)

10:30 a.m. – On-Ice (Goalies)

11:15 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Boyle)

8:15 p.m. – Inter-Squad Game

Wednesday, Aug. 27

9 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Boyle)

10:30 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Martin)

6:30 p.m. – Inter-Squad game

Thursday, Aug. 28

9 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Martin)

10:30 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Boyle)

Friday, Aug. 29

9 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Boyle)

10:15 a.m. – On-Ice (Team Martin)

7 p.m. – Purple vs. White

Saturday, Aug. 30

10 a.m. – On-Ice

7 p.m. – Exhibition Game vs. Dieppe

Sunday, Aug. 31

9 a.m. – On-Ice

2 p.m. – Exibition Game in Dieppe