TYNE VALLEY – It will be desperation hockey at its finest when the West Prince Senior Hockey League (WPSHL) kicks off its 2017-18 season at the Tyne Valley Sports Centre, suggests Adam MacLennan.
MacLennan is co-manager of the league’s newest entry, the Tyne Valley Farm Boys Inc. Tornadoes.
What makes for desperation hockey and, consequently, crowd-pleasing hockey, MacLennan notes, is the short regular season, and the reality that only four of the five teams will advance to the all-important post season.
“You finish fifth you potentially lose out on a lot of money for your rink when it comes time for playoffs,” he said. “It’s pretty well desperation from your very first shift.”
The Tornadoes will host Tignish Aces in the league opener Friday at 8 p.m.
Ironically, it was the Aces’ uncertainty about returning to the fold this year that led to the league persuading Tyne Valley to take another look at forming a team so there would be at least four teams. And then Tignish reconsidered, making for a five-team league.
Mike O’Halloran, player rep for the Aces, agrees with MacLennan on the need to finish top four.
“That’s why every game really counts this year,” added O’Halloran, who added area fans were “pretty excited” when they learned the Aces would be staying. He estimates they averaged 300 to 400 fans during home games last season, and even more in the playoffs.
O’Halloran is hoping some veterans who hung up the blades this year will get them back down once the season gets rolling, but he said the team has acquired some new players, including Evan Shea, Willie Gaudet, Mitch Doucette, Connor McRae and Jonathan Gaudet, who joins veteran Troy Ellsworth in goal.
Returning forwards include Colby Callaghan, Nathan Brennan, Tyson Arsenault and potent goal-scorer Jordan Knox. Tanner Gallant will anchor a defence that will also include Jacob LeClair, Brandon Gaudette, Lucas Gaudet and Karter Hackett.
The Tornadoes roster is still being finalized, but MacLennan says it will include Jeff Noye and Kevin Broome tending goal, Hardy Callaghan and Lucas Dyment anchoring the defence and TJ Campbell, Connor Dillon and the Ballum cousins, Matt and Evan, up front.
“We’re happy with the numbers; we’re happy with the turnout,” said MacLennan who shares management responsibilities with Bryan Maynard.
“I think the whole league should be competitive,” MacLennan assessed.
The league is going with three 15-minute periods this year. He doesn’t think that change will negatively impact the great fan support teams enjoyed last year.
“Keeping the season short and maybe cutting back the minutes a little bit, it was easier getting the guys to play. You wouldn’t have people in the arena if you didn’t have guys to play.”