It wasn’t that long ago that the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers hosted the 2019 Fred Page Cup.
Three months later, the team is preparing to hit the ice once again in preparation for the 2019-20 Maritime Junior Hockey League season.
Training camp opens on Aug. 25 with registration and a player welcoming barbecue with the first on-ice sessions on Aug. 26 in preparation for a pre-season tournament in Summerside during the Labour Day weekend.
Gone are a number of familiar faces, through graduation and trades, but general manager Jeff LeBlanc feels there is a strong nucleus of players coming back that should make the club competitive in the Eastlink South Division.
“We have a lot of guys coming back and a lot with Fred Page Cup experience,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc admitted it will be a different training camp for him as he will handle the general manager’s duties this season while new coach Doug Doull assumes the coaching reins after spending the last two seasons with the Weeks Crushers.
“It’ll be nice to sit in the stands and watch how the guys have developed over the summer,” LeBlanc said. “It hasn’t been a big turnaround, considering we finished the season at the first of May and now we’re back at it just a few months later.”
While several key players have move on, including Matt Green, Matt Williams, Will Lafford and Dawson Grenier, a key core is returning including goalie Joel Goguen; defencemen Bradley Dawe, Michal Sivek and Alex Wynter and forwards Caleb Rich, Cole Waugh, Colton McKenna, Stephen Fox, Jacob Myra, Cole Darrach, Max Boudreau and Alex Lafreniere.
Among the newcomers are defenceman Lucas Fabijancic, acquired at the June draft from Grand Falls, and Miguel Poirer, picked up from Yarmouth at the draft, along with defenceman Kyle Nichol and Jason Gallant, who were picked up in recent trades.
Another player coming to camp is Julian Hebert, who won a Junior B championship with the Moncton Vitos last winter and also saw action with the Ramblers as an affiliate.
“He’s a Max Boudreau-type guy coming into camp. He’s been skating with some of the pros in Moncton and working hard to prepare,” LeBlanc said.
He said it’s the first year since he joined the club there are several open spots, including another goalie to support Goguen. He’s expecting several goalies in camp vying for a spot on the team and LeBlanc said he will also be looking for some more free agent pickups, draft picks and possibly some players to filter down from the QMJHL camps.
“If you look at our team on paper, our forwards are among the fastest in the league. We were built for speed last year and a lot of those guys are returning,” LeBlanc said. “Guys like Jacob Myra, Cole Waugh, Max Boudreau and Cole Darrach bring a lot of speed to the lineup while Jason Gallant, who we just acquired, has great speed as well.”
A loss from the Fred Page Club lineup will be Nick Yuill, who signed with the Cornwall Colts in Ontario. LeBlanc said he tried to entice the defenceman, who played with Rothesay Netherwood and the Ramblers last year, to return but he chose to go to Ontario in hopes of getting a better opportunity to gain NCAA exposure.
“He’s a guy we gave a lot of opportunities to and we really wanted to have him back. We did our best to sell him on Amherst, but he wants to play NCAA and thought Ontario would be best for him,” LeBlanc said.
One of the players to watch will be Lafreniere, who did not finish last season with the Ramblers but expected back for 2019-20.
“He’s scheduled to come to camp,” he said. “We’re all starting fresh and everyone was invited to camp and we’re starting from Square 1. Doug (Doull) is coming in and we have new assistant coach and everyone’s starting from scratch, including every player. Every player on our protected list was invited to camp regardless of anything that happened in the past. Talking to Doug, he (Alex) is very excited about coming back. He’s always been a very good player in this league and a good centreman and there’s no doubt he’ll have a great year.”
NOTES: The Ramblers have set season ticket prices at $150 for adults, $130 for seniors, $95 for students (ages 12-18) with ID and free for Under-12 when accompanied by an adult.
Twelve-game flex passes are $80 for adults, $70 for seniors and students and $50 for students (ages 12 to 18) with an ID.
Game day prices are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors/students (over 18) and $5 for child over age 12.
Prices are the same as the 2018-19 season.