The train is starting to chug along the Express tracks in the Spanish River town of Espanola.
Espanola Express president and general manager Jason Rapcewicz has confirmed to Hockey News North the commitments of two seasoned skaters with northern Ontario roots for the 2020-2021 season.
The Express had a turnaround term in 2019-2020 and made the playoffs in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League for the first time since the 2015-2016 campaign.
The 2019-2020 season was the first for Rapcewicz as president, general manager and sole owner of the small market Espanola franchise.
As for the pair who Rapcewicz said plan on returning to Espanola for the 2020-2021 season, they are forwards Cole Delarosbil and Brennen Martel.
Delarosbil is from Sault Ste. Marie and Martel hails from Timmins. Delarosbil stands in at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds while Martel is 5-foot-8, 150 pounds.
Both players have 2001 birth dates.
Prior to becoming NOJHL rookies with Espanola in 2019-2020, the two were opponents in the Great North Midget Hockey League — Delarosbil with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds and Martel as a member of the Timmins Majors.
Delarosbil, who returned to the Express lineup for the final two games of the 2019-2020 regular season after being sidelined with a broken ankle since early in January, came through with six goals, three assists, nine points in just 27 outings as an NOJHL rookie.
Martel, meanwhile, got into 37 of Espanola’s 56 regular season games as a first-year NOJHLer in 2019-2020 and contributed three goals, three assists, six points as an energetic, two-way puck hound.
As Rapcewicz likes what Delarosbil and Martel bring to the Express in character, work ethic and ability, the Espanola boss told Hockey News North that he expects to confirm the commitment of several more returning and incoming players over the next few weeks.
“We would like to be able to try to keep building on what we as an organization started last season,” said Rapcewicz. “It is all about team work.”
The Express improved from a 10-43-3 record in 2018-2019 to a 17-34-5 mark in 2019-2020, which was an increase of 16 points in the standings.