It was a hot, hazy, humid September weekend in northeastern Ontario. But as it was steamy and sticky outside, there was ice on the sheets inside as early-season play in the Great North Midget Hockey League continued.
Two wins don’t make a season.
But two wins through five games thus far in 2017-2018 match the two wins that the Timmins Majors managed in 36 outings in 2016-2017.
The Majors improved their record to 2-3-0 in the early going of the season with a home-opener victory over the New Liskeard Cubs.
For returning forward Austin Holmes, who endured the Majors league-worst 2-32-2 record in 2016-2017, the two wins thus far in 2017-2018 represent a good sign.
“We are doing a lot better this year than we did last season and we have to keep rolling,” Holmes told the Timmins Daily Press. “We have to buy into the system, keep pucks moving and keep our legs moving.”
Holmes and defenseman Frederic Leclair-Pouw are the Majors leading point-getters through the five regular-season games thus far in 2017-2018.
Leclair-Pouw, who was also part of last season’s last-place team, has 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points while Holmes has 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points.
Majors assistant coach Derick Martin, who is part of the first-year staff that includes fellow assistants Darren Thib and Trevor McGee, head coach Brandon Perry and general manager Doug Cheechoo, said it is all about trying to establish a winning atmosphere.
“We need our players to learn to hate losing,” Martin relayed. “We want to establish a tradition of winning on home ice and having the players get to know what it feels like to win. I think that is contagious.”
The 35-year old Martin is a former defenseman who played in the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League and for many more years at the minor-pro level before returning home to Timmins.
They have yet to win a regular-season game through three outings as a first-year, minor midget team in the Great North.
But the Soo Thunderbirds have two points from a pair of overtime setbacks and sport a record of 0-1-2 through the three games, all of which have been played on home ice.
Forward Justin Mauro, he of blazing, breath-taking speed, tops the Thunderbird scoring chart with 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points.
Following Mauro is forward Brock Santa Maria with a goal and three assists.
Forward Michael Neveau and defenseman Mateo Perri have three assists each while forwards Michael Chaffay and Hunter Rheaume have contributed a pair of goals apiece.
Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves forward Joe Mazur, a seventh-round, 2017 Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Sudbury Wolves, leads the Great North in scoring to date with 5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points in just four games.
The Nickel Capital Wolves are off to a 4-0-0 start to the season and have scored 28 goals in the process.
Meanwhile, the major midget North Bay Trappers, coached by the venerable Guy Blanchard, have a record of 2-0-1 thus far.
Defenseman Ethan Allair leads the Trappers with five points while forward Nick Davis has four netted goals.
PHOTO: Linemates Austin Holmes and Riley Brousseau celebrate a goal in the Timmins Majors victory over the New Liskeard Cubs on the weekend. (Photo by Postmedia.)