O’LEARY – The West Prince Maroons kick off their 30-game regular-season schedule in the P.E.I. Irving Oil Bantam AAA Hockey League on Friday.
The Maroons will host the Sherwood Falcons at the O’Leary Community Sports Centre. Game time is 8 p.m.
The Falcons opened the regular season with a 10-5 win over the Pownal Red Devils earlier this week.
Maroons head coach Jeff Ellsworth is proud of the team and coaching staff assembled in O’Leary this winter. Assisting Ellsworth are O’Leary recreation director Tylan Robinson, Western Red Wings’ junior B graduate TJ Campbell and Adam MacLennan, former manager of the Tyne Valley junior C team.
“There is a wealth of hockey knowledge and experience between us all,” Ellsworth expressed. “It’s great to have the boys on board, and it should make for an exciting winter.”
The Maroons are welcoming back 10 players from last year’s roster, led by team captain Jacob Arsenault and assistant captains Chance Pitre, Bryden Smith and Brayden Handrahan. Other returning players are forwards Alex Morrissey, Connor Morrissey, Isaac Knox and Silas Handrahan, and goaltenders Luke Oliver and Bronson Banks.
“It’s great to have two No. 1 goalies in your line-up,” acknowledged goaltending coach MacLennan. “Every game we play this winter we have a chance to win knowing you’re going to get a strong performance out of your netminder, no matter which one is between the pipes. They are there for one purpose. That’s to stop pucks.”
Captain Arsenault and assistant captain Pitre anchor a defence that includes newcomers Ben Boulter, Diego LeClair, Sterling MacKendrick and Jax Harper.
“We are going to spend a lot of time on D development this winter,” Ellsworth said. “We feel we have six strong athletes on the blue-line, and each of them is working hard to develop their game.
“They have created a unity already back there, and each one is rooting for each other to improve because they know they are a key piece of the puzzle.”
Filling the remaining spots up front are peewee AAA graduates Chandler Wood, Tristan Cahill and Isaac Callaghan. There were seven athletes vying for the remaining spots going into the final weekend.
“We were honest with them all, and told them in the dressing room, ‘This is your final chance to impress,’ and these athletes did not disappoint,” said Campbell. “They will be leaned on heavy this winter to help put numbers on the board.”
When asked what the goals were this winter, Robinson said, "We want to take it game by game, we will set goals daily for the squad. We want to be in the league championship final.
“That's our dream goal, but we know and understand that we will have to set smaller goals along the way to achieve the dream goal. We have a lot of work to do and the boys are buying into the program already, which is great to see.”