KENSINGTON – Kyle Dunn just smiles when he’s asked if he has his players wearing name tags.
Dunn is in his fifth year as head coach of the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild, which currently has 11 first-year players on the 2018-19 roster.
“There are a lot of new faces around the dressing room,” commented Dunn. “Sometimes that is a good thing, they have a new attitude and a new energy. It’s an exciting time to be around the rink.”
The Wild’s regular-season home opener is against the Northern Moose from Bathurst, N.B., at Credit Union Centre in Kensington on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“Home openers here are always special,” said second-year Wild centre Landon Clow, 16. “You get lots of fans, there’s a good atmosphere.”
Dunn acknowledged the evening will be a memorable experience for Kensington’s rookies.
“Mike (Gallant, team owner) always does it big for our guys,” said Dunn. “Coming to play in Kensington, with the dressing room, our upstairs room, you come out to the Kensington crowd, you feel like a pro.
“These guys are going to get a taste about what real Kensington fans are about in the home opener. But after the opening festivities are over, we want to get back to playing hockey and get to our game.”
The Wild is currently 0-1 (won-lost) in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League, after dropping a 6-4 road decision to the Saint John Vitos on Sept. 14. Kensington went 2-2 in the league’s pre-season jamboree, and swept a pair of home exhibition games from Newbridge Academy in Dartmouth, N.S., last weekend.
“Right now we are a fast, puck-moving team, and we want to keep the puck down low,” said 17-year-old Wild defenceman Ethan Beaulieu of Borden-Carleton.
Clow added: “We will play with speed for sure. We have a strong skill mentality, and if we come to work hard every day we will do fine.”
Dunn points out the 2018-19 edition of the Wild features a different look compared to past years.
“We are not the big team Kensington normally puts together,” said Dunn. “This is a nice small barn, and was an intimidating spot to come to with our big players.
“This year, we are not as big up front, but we are going to be a fast and hard-working hockey team. It’s one of the best working teams I’ve coached in Kensington.
“We move the puck well up front, we are bigger on the back end and are going to be hard to play against.”
Dunn acknowledged the change of style has resulted in adjustments.
“Our practices have changed from the old-school battle drills when we used to be a big team to a lot of drills with puck movement and being creative,” explained Dunn. “These guys are smart, they know how to play the game and once they get a little more chemistry together we are going to be a pretty team to watch.”
Dunn said the Wild has 17 players currently signed, and three open cards. Kensington will be without returning forwards Ryan Richards (suspension) and Dixon MacLeod (injury) on Saturday.
“We are running with about nine forwards and six D, so everyone is going to get lots of ice time, lots of opportunity and if they make a mistake they will be thrown right back out there,” said Dunn.
Beaulieu, forward Ryan Richards of Cornwall and defenceman Zac Arsenault of Montague are the only third-year players.
“We are going to definitely lean on those guys for leadership, on and off the ice, and expect those guys to play big roles,” said Dunn. “We have good character guys, and that’s one thing we recruit. We want guys that want to be here, want to get better and it’s going to be an exciting team to coach.”
When asked what adjustments the rookies can expect to face, Beaulieu offered, “When I first moved in (to major midget), the speed was the biggest thing, and everyone is stronger.”
This marks the Wild’s sixth season in Kensington, and the opportunity to play major midget hockey in his home community is not lost on Clow, who lives just outside Kensington in Kelvin Grove.
“It’s pretty special to be able to come down the street to the rink and play for a team you watched for a few years before you got to play on it.”
Kensington Wild notebook:
Along with preparing for the regular season, Wild head coach Kyle Dunn and different players have been instructing at the Kensington Area Minor Hockey Association fall school at Credit Union Centre. The Wild has donated 125 free tickets for Saturday’s home opener against the Northern Moose to all participants in the school.
Kensington native Roy Paynter will drop the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff. Paynter won six medals in swimming for Team P.E.I. at the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S., in August.
Season tickets will be available on Saturday.
Campbell Gallant, who played on the inaugural Wild team six years ago, has joined the team as an assistant coach. Gallant takes over for Brock Richard, who did not return for a second year due to family commitments. Assistant coach Duane Richards is back for his fifth year on Dunn’s staff, and Nelson MacAulay returns as goaltending coach.
Kensington Wild roster as of Friday morning:
Simon Hughes (affiliated player)