AMHERST – If you’re fast, then you might play hockey with the Ramblers at the 2019 Fred Page Cup in Amherst. If you’re slow, you’ll play elsewhere.
“For us to be able to win the Fred Page Cup, we can’t chase,” said Jeff LeBlanc, coach and general manager of the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers, during their annual general meeting Wednesday night at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Amherst. “We’re going to have to ice a lot faster team than we had this year, and that’s the goal.”
The Fred Page Cup was in Ottawa this year where, on May 6, the Ottawa Junior Senators won the Eastern Canadian Junior A title with a 10-1 win over Longueuil College Francais.
On May 5, Longueuil College beat the Maritime Hockey League’s Edmundston Blizzard 5-1 in the semi-final game.
A Ramblers delegation, which included LeBlanc, were in the stands for those games.
“Edmunston ran into a lot of trouble with their speed. They were chasing all the time,” said LeBlanc. “You play five games in five nights, so it happens very quickly, and you have to be in shape and you have to be able to skate.”
The Ramblers currently have two returning goaltenders, five returning defencemen, and six returning forwards. Some of those players, the fast ones, will be with the Ramblers come the Jan. 10, 2019 trade deadline, but some, the slow ones, will be gone.
“Our goal is to do this by January 10. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen this summer. We’re not going to have a Fred Page Cup team September 1. It’s not going to happen,” said LeBlanc. “We’re going to have to make trades throughout the year to be able to build on that, and to build on the team we already have now.”
During last season’s Jan. 10, 2018 trade deadline, the Ramblers had the option to add players or sell players. They became buyers at the trade deadline, bringing in Cody Porter, Will Bower, Jacob Myra and Jordan Renaud, without having to give up any speed.
Two players they kept appear to be fast enough to make it to the Fred Page Cup, but time will tell.
“If we were going to go after some 20-year-olds (at the 2018 trade deadline) to make a run, we did not want to give up any guys like Caleb Rich for example, and Dawson Grenier for example, we didn’t want to give up those types of players because we know we need them for the Fred Page Cup run in this coming year,” said LeBlanc.
The Ramblers made a decent run in the 2018 playoffs, but came up short. Down 3-1 in their best-of-seven Eastlink South semi-final series to the South Shore Lumberjacks, the Ramblers battled back, forcing a Game 7 in Bridgewater, which they lost 8-2.
LeBlanc says the loss was disappointing for him personally.
“I’ve coached championship teams before, and the team I coached to a championship in Dieppe (the Commandos) wasn’t as good as the team we had here last year in my opinion. It was very disappointing, something I’m still trying to get over,” said LeBlanc. “Any time you have a good team, a team that looks good on the ice, and you underachieve, it’s a very bad feeling. It’s a sick feeling, and we underachieved.”
He takes full responsibility for the loss.
“It’s my job to ice a championship team and to win a championship,” said LeBlanc. “I haven’t done that yet but it’s something we’re going to work hard to do this summer, and hopefully we’re going to be celebrating this time next year.”
The Ramblers are already at work, having made three trades, which they cannot announce until June 10.
“The players that we got are impact players and they are fast players,” said LeBlanc.
“That’s one big thing taken away from the trip to Ottawa,” he added. “If we don’t get faster we’re going to look bad because they (the teams at the Fred Page Cup) are very quick.”
The 2019 Fred Page Cup Tournament runs from May 2 to 5 at Amherst Stadium.
The winner of the of tournament will travel to the 2019 RBC Cup in Brooks, Alberta.
A change to a Ramblers bylaw was voted on by members during the AGM, changing the term of office for the executive board from one year to two years. The vote for the change was almost unanimous among the approximately 40 members in attendance.
Executive board members for the next two years are as follows: Gary Brown, president; Bill Chapman, 1st vice-president; Ronald Lake, 2nd vice-president; Muriel Morrison, secretary; Allan Chapman, treasurer.
Members also elected their board of directors at the meeting. They are: Sharlene Carter-Earle, Allison Landry, Walter Maltby, Gary Boudreau, Jason Dickie, Kim Campbell, Bruce Sangster, Paul Morrison, Norman Copeland and Kurtis Langille.