They the North of the OHL

September 19, 2019

These Troops are young and — for example — contain a defenseman and a forward who were teammates with the North Bay Minor Trappers of the Great North Midget Hockey League not that long ago. And for the time being, nine rookies, including a pair of goalies from the Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, are part of the 24-player roster of the North Bay Battalion as the 2019-2020 Ontario Hockey League season gets underway.

“We have a young defense and young goalies, so there are going to be mistakes made early on,” relayed Battalion assistant coach-assistant general manager Adam Dennis. “We just have to make sure we stay positive, correct them and make sure there are improvements along the way.”

The Battalion, which finished seventh in the Eastern Conference during the 2018-2019 OHL season with 65 points from a record of 30-33-5, is looking to an array of veterans and rookies to try to improve on that mark this 2019-2020 campaign.

Battalion forwards are centres Matthew Struthers, Mason Primeau, Luke Moncada, Cameron Peters and Liam Arnsby. Left wingers are Brad Chenier, Harrison Caines, Niki Korpialho, Kyle Jackson, David Campbell and Josh Currie, while right wingers are Brandon Coe, Mitchell Russell, Patrick Brown and Alex Christopoulos.

The defencemen are Nick King, Braden Henderson, Simon Rose, Pacey Schlueting, Paul Christopoulos, James Mayotte and Ryan Thompson while Joe Vrbetic and Christian Cicigoi are the goaltenders.

Arnsby and the Christopoulos twins were the North Bay’s top three picks at the 2019 OHL priority selections draft. The troika all skated for the minor midget champion Don Mills Flyers of the Greater Toronto Hockey League in 2018-2019.

Then there is the connection to the north, namely the aforementioned GNMHL and NOJHL leagues.

Schlueting and Campbell were teammates with the North Bay Minor Trappers in 2017-2018 and were selected by the Battalion in the first and fourth round, respectively, at the 2018 OHL priority selections draft.

A hometown lad, Schlueting played with the Battalion as an OHL rookie in 2018-2019 while Campbell, who hails from just outside Sault Ste. Marie on St. Joseph Island, skated for the Powassan Voodoos of the NOJHL.

And both Battalion goalies, the aforementioned Vrbetic and Cicigoi, were NOJHL teammates of Campbell with Powassan in 2018-2019.

The rookie goalies have taken over the Battalion net from overager Christian Propp, who was traded to the Soo Greyhounds during the summer and 19-year old Christian Purboo, who was recently dealt to the Sudbury Wolves.

With regard to the rookie net tandem of Vrbetic and Cicigoi, Dennis, a former OHL goalie who won a Memorial Cup in 2005 with the London Knights, said “stopping pucks” sums up the role.

“You can complicate the position all you want but, at the end of the day, it’s stopping more pucks than the guy at the other end,” said Dennis, who aids veteran Battalion boss Stan Butler as the Battalion’s top assistant.

Offensively, the Battalion will try to progress through this season without New Liskeard product Justin Brazeau, the graduated overage forward who set a franchise record with 61 goals and amassed 113 points, second in league scoring last season, in 68 games.

Struthers was second on the Battalion in scoring last season with 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points in 61 games while the now overage Chenier — who is from the Greater Sudbury area — produced 30 goals and 35 assists for 65 points in 61 games.

“It’s a hungry group we have ,” noted Struthers. “I think everybody has aspirations and goals, which is key when you’re making up a team.”

Back to Dennis, the assistant coach-assistant GM feels the Battalion has a good base to be competitive this season.

“We’re confident that we have a really good core,” Dennis relayed. “They come from a winning pedigree, especially those Don Mills boys, so it’s up to us to put them in a position to do so.”

Moving forward into the season, work ethic will be key, said Dennis.

“We have to be a hard-working team. We can’t be a team that takes nights off, takes shifts off.”

PHOTO: David Campbell (left) and Pacey Schlueting played minor midget hockey together in North Bay in 2017-2018.

What you think about “They the North of the OHL”

  1. Those who forecast these things have the Troops finishing eighth in the East. They have had the lowest attendance in the league for the last three seasons and this forecast might mean a four-peat. All businesses need customers if they’re going to survive and junior teams are no different. Possibly ownership isn’t very concerned about the future but the dedicated fans are.

  2. Abbott has gone on record to say that his OHL franchise is a hobby. He could care less if he wins, loses, makes money or not.

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