AMHERST, N.S. - It’s probably not the start to training camp Jeff LeBlanc was counting on, but the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers will hit the ice at the Amherst Stadium early Monday to begin the road to the Fred Page Cup next May.
A power outage in part of Amherst knocked out electricity to the stadium for several hours Sunday, preventing the team from getting on the ice. Now the team will hit the ice for practices on Monday at 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. with Team 1 playing Team 2 at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s good to be back at it,” LeBlanc, the coach and GM, of the Ramblers said Sunday. “We have a few guys that will be in camp a little later in the week, but we’re ready to go. Everyone showed up who we figured would be here, there were no stragglers. That’s always a good thing.”
Earlier Sunday, LeBlanc announced a pair of trades with the Summerside Western Capitals that will see goalie Matt Williams and forward Hunter McIntyre come to Amherst in return for prospects and future considerations.
Williams and McIntyre are expected in camp as early as Monday while Casey Fox and Alex Lafreniere, acquired in trades over the summer, will be in town later this week as they finish up summer jobs.
“It’s going to be an exciting year for us. Our goal is to continue to get better every game and build toward the Fred Page Cup,” LeBlanc said. “We’re an average team on paper, but we’ll get a lot better.”
LeBlanc said he’s tempering expectations going into the season. Last year, there were high hopes for the club after a number of offseason moves and a quick start. In the end, the Ramblers placed third in the division and got bounced in a seven-game opening round series by the South Shore Lumberjacks.
“I think expectations may have been blown a little out of proportion last year,” he said. “This year, we have six top-end forwards we have to replace. Most teams rebuild after something like that, but we’re trying to build a Fred Page Cup team after that. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick, but we’ll manage our expectations and look at things one game at a time and one practice at a time.
“We know we’re going to be there May 1. Now it’s all about getting there and playing good hockey when we get there.”
While there is some work to do to rebuild up front, LeBlanc likes his goaltending tandem and his defensive core with five returning players. There are also six returning forwards.
“We still have a lot of depth, we just have to find the chemistry as we add players to get to where we want to be,” he said.
The club still has a trio of players in QMJHL camps including Cooper Jones in Halifax, Mark Rumsey in Moncton, Joel Bouchard in Drummondville and Morgan Nauss in Chicoutimi. He’s not sure which of them will return – if any.
One player excited to be back in defenceman Dawson Grenier.
“It feels good. It has been a long summer, it’s nice to be back,” said Grenier, who is entering his fourth season with the Ramblers. “Key for us will be having a strong start and building from there.”
Grenier likes the moves that have been made over the summer and while the Fred Page Cup is the ultimate goal, he said the team needs to focus on the regular season first.
The Ramblers first exhibition game will be Thursday in Bouctouche while Amherst hosts Miramichi on Saturday, Sept. 1 at the stadium.