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Antigonish Junior Bulldogs name Donnie Grant new head coach

Antigonish native Donnie Grant
Antigonish native Donnie Grant - Contributed

Follow Antigonisher Dave Cusack will join Grant behind the bench

ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

It’s still April, and the Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs have a new head coach in place.

Antigonish native Donnie Grant will move up from the Cabot Highlanders Minor Midget program to take over the Bulldogs who had been guided by Dave Synishin for the past two seasons. Citing work demands as the reason, Synishin, the former and long-time head coach of the St. F.X. X-Women, stepped down a few days after the Bulldogs were eliminated from Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) playoffs, by the Strait Pirates, March 12.  

Grant, as he was with the Highlanders, will be joined on the bench by Antigonish’s Dave Cusack. Cusack’s previous coaching role was as the head coach with the former Antigonish Midget ‘AA’ Bulldogs, a role he held for several seasons.

“Two quality hockey guys from town who are committed to the program; they want to be here for the long-haul and want to win a championship,” a very pleased Bulldogs’ general manager (GM) Gerry Marangoni said, talking to the Casket Monday (April 29).

Marangoni said he feels Grant is a coach who will keep the program moving in the right direction.

“Someone who will be able to continue to take the program in a direction that, as general manager, I feel we need to go,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to attract quality players, and build towards winning the Don Johnson Cup.”

Marangoni noted it’s beneficial that Grant is coming from the newly established local minor midget program, since it’s an age group which graduates to junior.

“It was only a year but he, obviously, saw all the kids in that league, and he has seen this league and the major midget league,” Marangoni, who will be going into his third season as team’s GM, said.

“I’m not sure if he had the opportunity to get to too many high school games, but, he is certainly very aware of who is around.”

The Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Junior Bulldogs have named Antigonish native Donnie Grant as their new coach.
The Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Junior Bulldogs have named Antigonish native Donnie Grant as their new coach.

Grant said it’s great to be back in Antigonish coaching, and part of the junior Bulldogs organization.

“I know the last few years it has been really taking off, so I’m excited to be part of that,” he said.

As Marangoni did, he talked about the value of having spent the past season with the minor midget program.

“The minor midget players are definitely looking to continue their hockey careers whether it’s junior ‘B,’ ‘A,’ major midget or even the ‘Q,’ so there will be some familiar faces over the next couple of years,” he said. “It should be a seamless transition, which I’m looking forward to.”

He talked about the coaching partnership and friendship he shares with Cusack, noting they think along the same lines. Grant also commented on how the NSJHL seems to be improving with each season.

“The league has certainly improved in terms of on-ice talent over the last number of years; it’s a destination to play junior ‘B.’ It has transformed from years ago and is only going up,” he said, noting his job starts right away.

“Part of this is recruiting and talking to existing players, so it starts today and will continue over the summer,” Grant said. “Obviously, it will start ramping up, for sure, come August and September.”   

The Bulldogs finished fourth in the Sid Rowe Division this past season and then took the regular-season champion Pirates to the full seven games in the first-round, before being eliminated. The Pirates reached the NSJHL finals were they were defeated in six games by the Sackville Blazers.   

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