The coach has his players in Attack mode.
Batchewana Attack is prepping for the inaugural season of the new Canadian International Hockey League under the watchful eyes of a coach who knows his way around the game.
To be sure, Denny Lambert’s rather-unique experience as a three-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds who went on to skate in more than 500 National Hockey League games as a rugged winger who was never drafted into junior or the pros cannot be understated.
And Lambert’s added experience of eight years as an OHL coach with the Greyhounds — five as an assistant, three as the headmaster — only adds to what he has learned and accomplished in the game.
The 44-year old Lambert has been putting the Attack through the paces as the new Sault Ste. Marie-based junior hockey team — which will play its home games at Rankin Arena — readies for exhibition activity prior to the start of the regular season in early October.
Practices under Lambert have been lively and of the learning variety as the old pro, flanked by assistant coach Trevor Solomon and roving goalie instructor Bill Vanderleest — who also works with the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League — gets Batchewana ready to Attack the eight-team CIHL.
For Lambert, who is back coaching junior hockey — albeit a lower level — for the first time since parting ways with the OHL Greyhounds in 2011, he likes what he is seeing at the Attack practices.
“The guys are working hard — there is no doubt they are giving one hundred per cent — and asking a lot of questions and that to me is a strong indication of their commitment,” said Lambert. “There is a lot of teaching and introduction to systems that are based on my experiences from the NHL and the OHL. For a lot of our players this is the highest level they have played at and they seem to be adapting to the structure.”
Lambert said the Attack as a team “is starting to come together. It’s not easy to start a team from scratch. But I am seeing what we have and it’s a good start. The next step will be finding out where our competition is at and how we match up with them. That is the unknown right now, being a part of a new team in a new league.”
With a roster of more than 20 players — about half of who are local products — the new Batchewana entry features personnel from Italy, Sweden and Russia as well as Michigan and Illinois along with homegrown talent.
The newest import to join the Attack is Russian-born forward Sergei Khoroshun, who has trained with PEAC Academy in Toronto.
As Khoroshun has stood out at the practice, so too have Italian-born goalie Stefan Demetz and Swedish-born defenceman Johan Kling.
As noted there is local talent aplenty on the Attack that includes defencemen Jeremy Solomon, Cade Nolan, Shane Zorzit and Adam Baggs and forwards Grant Syrette, Jacob Palmerio, Jason Uhl, Jesse Delavalle and pepperpot twin brothers Drake Pilon and Darian Pilon.
Solomon and Syrette both opted to sign with the Attack rather than return to the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Besides being big, strong, 1994 birth-year players, both Solomon and Syrette have extensive junior experience.
Solomon played three seasons as a high-end defender with the Thunderbirds while Syrette was with the local NOJHL team after playing in more than 60 OHL games with the Mississauga Steelheads.
PHOTO: Players Jason Uhl, Grant Syrette and Jeremy Solomon talk it up before a recent practice of the Batchewana Attack of the CIHL. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)
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