Future looks bright for Ramblers

Solid nucleus coming back in 2017-18

Published on April 12, 2017

The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers were eliminated from the MHL playoffs on Monday, but coach and general manager Jeff LeBlanc is looking forward to a bright future for the franchise. Among those who will not be back is graduating forward Brandon Kosik.

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AMHERST, N.S. –Jeff LeBlanc knew he faced a huge task when he took over as head coach and general manager of the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers in 2015.

Despite the pain of suffering a second-round playoff defeat to the hands of the Truro Bearcats earlier this week, LeBlanc couldn’t be happier with the progress the club has made in a relatively short time.
“To me, we’re ahead of where we felt we’d be,” LeBlanc said. “I think it was a very successful year, especially when you consider where we were last year and the year before. We’re definitely going in the right direction. We just have to stick to the plan and success will come.”
The Ramblers failed to make the playoffs in LeBlanc’s first season – the second consecutive year the Ramblers didn’t make the post season. And, despite higher expectations the club got off to a bit of a slow start this season before going on a long winning streak early in 2017 to jump into the race for the regular season crown in the Eastlink South Division.
Amherst settled for fourth and a first-round matchup with the defending champion Weeks Crushers, taking the series in seven games in what will probably go down as one of the biggest series wins in the franchise’s long history.
A flu bug, and perhaps a little bit of exhaustion from the opening round, helped put the Ramblers behind 2-0 to Truro before bouncing back in Game 3 with a 3-0 win. But, a 3-2 loss on home ice last Saturday and a 5-4 loss in Truro on Monday ended the year.
“Making the playoffs was our goal going into the season and there weren’t many people who expected us to beat Pictou in the first round,” LeBlanc said. “The boys gained a lot of experience of playing in the playoffs and you have to look at the attendance and how it grew. There was nothing like playing in front of more than 1,800 fans in the playoffs. We’re also in a good spot financially for the first time in a long time. There aren’t too many things we can pick apart right now, we’re in good shape.”
Gone are Brandon Kosik, Matt Lapointe, Grant Janes, Matt Cusson and Chad Bannister up front; defencemen Jesse Dunn, Connor Vermeulen and Josh Fitzgerald and goalie Daryl MacCallum.
Back are leading scorer Jordan King, Layton Parsons, Ryan MacDonald, Keenan Wedge-Joudrey, Julian Makary, Dawson Grenier, Matt Sartoris, Brock McEwen, Felix LeBlanc, Lucas Sangster and goalie Julian Galloway.
There’s a good chance Matt Thorpe will return from Gatineau of the QMJHL while he could be joined by Olympiques’ teammate Jake Barter and even Chicoutimi’s Morgan Nauss (acquired from South Shore in the Matt Paul deal) could be here – although he will only be 19 next year and likely to return to the Q. There’s also Joel Gogan, who got some playoff experience relieving Galloway in Game 1 of the Truro series, and Bradley Dawe, the club’s top pick last year who got an assist in one game with the Ramblers this season.
LeBlanc also liked what he saw of Cole Waugh in the playoffs, although he could end up with the Halifax Mooseheads, while there’s also Pierre Bourgoin, who was picked up from the St. Stephen Aces for Alex Lafreniere and played a couple of games for the Ramblers down the stretch.
Going into the draft, June 10 in Miramichi, the Ramblers sit with the second most picks, although it’s possible some of those may be traded for assets.
“We’ve made it so that we’re going to be good for a long time. My goal coming in was to be competitive for many years, not just one year,” he said.
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I think it was a very successful year, especially when you consider where we were last year and the year before. We’re definitely going in the right direction. We just have to stick to the plan and success will come.

Jeff LeBlanc, Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers coach and general manager