STOUFFVILLE, ON – A new season commences with new faces and a new opportunity to win it all.
The Stouffville Spirit of the OJHL are counting on a mix of veteran presence mixed with local talent to make the playoffs for the first time since they defeated the Whitby Fury in 2012 to win the Frank L. Buckland Cup.
Spirit have added 10 new players to their line-up: Christopher Brill-Morgan, Liam O’Dette, Nick Thomakos, Brady Baker, Tyson Bruce, Kyler Challis, Cameron Lintner, Tim Bester along with Connor Miller and Spencer Roberts who are natives to Stouffville.
A nephew to former NHLer Gary Roberts, Spencer grew up playing minor hockey in Stouffville and is excited about playing for his home-town.
“I’ve been watching them my whole life so it will be a good feeling to actually play for them,” he said.
Roberts will be nervous stepping onto the ice for the first time in a Spirit uniform, and although the fans won’t see that, they will notice what he will bring to the Stouffville team.
“I can help both offensively and defensively but I’m more of a defence kind of a forward,” said Roberts.
General Manager Ken Burrows, who orchestrated the acquisitions to get Roberts and the other new players, knows that his team and this league is an avenue where these young men can develop their skills in order to make it to the next level.
“He’s one of many rookies that we brought in. He’s a tough forward, he can finish his checks,” said Burrows. “He has to improve to get a lot of ice over the next couple of months so we’ll see what happens along with a lot of the other rookies.
“That’s what they have to do, they just have to get better.”
According to Burrows, the Spirit are in a lot better shape physically than they were a year ago and they are more mature which will lead to a more disciplined game on the ice.
Last year the team accumulated 967 minutes in penalties, surrendering 53 goals while being shorthanded, putting them sixth overall in the league in giving up goals while trying to kill a penalty.
Another thing that the Spirit would not like to repeat is the number of times they found themselves down by a goal or two by the end of the first period and sometimes the second.
A few times it seemed like the opposing team’s lead was too much to overcome.
Although the Spirit had the uncanny knack time and time again to mount a comeback to gain a victory or force overtime, they sometimes fell short of getting the win. That is something that was addressed during this year’s training camp.
Robert Powers, who plays defence for the Spirit, says that he and fellow veteran Matt Heffernan can draw on the experience of being a part the Stouffville championship team in 2012.
What they learned can be passed along to their fellow teammates which will hopefully translate into better results.
“It’s good that we both can relay back to experiences from that and offer advice and tips on how to start the game well so we can get out to an early lead,” said Powers, who was second last season in team scoring with 37 points.
“Especially you know, we are really good in the second and the third so that we can just start off strong and keep coming and coming so that eventually teams just won’t want to play us at all.”
One of the strengths that Stouffville has is their speed.
“It’s one of the things we tried to do is build the team with a lot of speed,” said head coach Jeff Perrin. “And the players we’ve added will all add to that.
“That’s one of the best things we have is speed. We like a good skating team. Good skaters cause havoc for the other team.”
The coach also feels Stouffville has four good forward lines with players with toughness along the boards and play a more physical game. Their biggest improvement is between the pipes.
“We have two solid goalies this year,” said Perrin. “We have [Daniel] Mannella back from last year and we signed Tim Bester who we think is a very capable back-up. We’re not afraid to use both.”
On paper, the team has improved in all areas, now it’s just a matter of showing what they can do on the ice. With the puck drop only a few hours away, the Stouffville Spirit are looking forward to a very successful 2013-2014 OJHL season.