They may have a new sponsor, but the defending champion St. John’s Hickman Chrysler Caps look to be the team to beat again as the Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League starts a new season tonight.
“There are some tweaks, of course, because there’s always a turnover of some players in junior and we’ve lost some good players, but a lot of our big leaders are still here,” said Caps coach Paul Whittle.
“If anything,” Whittle added, “we may be a little quicker, a little crisper this season.”
The Caps defeated the Mount Pearl junior Blades (now the Dakota Wild Juniors) 5-2 in Game 7 to claim the 2012 Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League championship.
“We’re looking pretty solid — top to bottom — this year,” said Whittle. “We expect to be at the top, but I expect a couple of the other teams to get a little better, too.”
The Caps are particularly strong on defence with returnees Patrick Parfrey, Roger Pender and Ryan Walsh and in net with Scott Bray.
The same two teams will open the new campaign eight o’clock tonight in a much-anticipated rematch between the rivals at Twin Rinks.
Other games on tap opening night of the league’s 33rd year feature the Trinity Placentia Flyers against C.B.R. Renegades at Robert French Memorial Stadium at 8:10 p.m., while the Conception Bay North Stars take on the Avalon Capitals at the Goulds Arena at 8:30 p.m.
Here’s a look at how the teams stack up for the new season:
St. John’s Caps
2011-12 record (placing): 23-5 (first place, league championship)
Coach: Paul Whittle
Home rink/starting times: Twin Rinks, 8 p.m., Saturday
Who’s back: Scott Bray, Roger Pender, Patrick Parfrey Ryan Walsh, Robbie Hynd, Kyle McGuirk, Riley Edwards, Matthew Coughlan
Who’s gone: Johnny Caul, Colin Coates, Mike Knox, Mike King, Blair Carter
Newcomers: Justin Walsh, Joey Trenholm, Josh Thornhill, Thomas Murphy, Coady Edwards.
Mount Pearl Juniors
2011-12 record (placing): 24-4 (second)
Coach: Brian Cranford
Home rink/starting times: Glacier, 7:15 p.m. Sunday
Who’s back: John Bursey, Lucas Coady, Lucas Hillier, Johnny Ryan, Robert Barrett, Julian Loveless, Michael Morris, Damien Ryan, Adam Thompsons, Alex Ings, Jacob Pitcher, Ian McIntyre, Tyler Sturge, Mitchell Rumbolt.
Who’s gone: Brian Hogan, Aaron Schwartz, Lucas Dearing, James Blair, Matthew McGrath. Jared King has work commitments, but could return. A few others are too busy with school commitments and Brandon Noseworthy has given up hockey to focus on soccer.
Newcomers: Chad Thompson, Braeden Brown, Kyle Aucoin, Chris Cahill, Travis Hunt, Jordan Ryan.
Quote: Mount Pearl general manger Gerard Rose told The Telegram’s Kenn Oliver, “We hope to contend. That’s the plan. We’re pretty pleased with the team we have here.”
2011-12 record (placing): 12-14 (fifth)
Coaches: Michael Walsh, Matthew Roche, Justin Leblanc
Home rink/starting times: Jack Byrne Arena, 5 p.m., Sunday
Who’s back: Forwards Tyler Parsons, Travis Curtis, Shayne McGrath, Chris Blackwood, Chris Amminson, Robert Cahill, Matthew Connors, Stephen Morrissey, Kurt Vaters; defencemen Matthew Walsh, Scott Cahill, Reid Connors, Steven Pilgrim, Kory Waterman and goaltenders Billy Dawe, Alex Riggs
Who’s gone: Justin Leblanc, Chris Ryan, Tyler Walshe, Nathan Hull and David Parsons.
Newcomers: Ryan Penney, Chris Hogan, Bryan Kirkpatrick.
C&W Offshore Breakers
2011-12 record (placing): 10-17-1 (sixth)
Coach: Mike Glynn
Home rink/starting times: Southern Shore Arena, 7:50 p.m., Friday
Who’s back: Michael Chafe, Daniel Chafe, Brandon Baird, Mitchell Martin, Mark Power, D.J. Elliot
Who’s gone: Jeff Walsh, Shane Boland, Andrew Gale and Nick Miller.
Newcomers: Nick Wagner, a forward, was picked up in the draft (fifth overall) and Andrew Oates.
Quote: “We took a major hit in losing overagers Boland and Gale to the senior (NLSHL) league. We’ve got a small organization and those two players can’t be replaced,” said assistant coach Jonathan Carter, a hint of frustration in his voice.
Carter figures his team will be “around the middle of the pack” in the eight-team league standings this season.
C.B.R. Assante Wealth
2011-12 record (placing): 6-21-1 (eighth)
Coaches: Brad Smith, Brian Tilley
Home rink/starting times: Robert French Memorial Stadium, 8:10 p.m., Saturday
Who’s back: In goal, Zach Mitchell is back for his third season. His backup is second-year player Stephen Powell. Forwards returning are captain Paul Perham, now in his fourth campaign, Brandon O'Neill, Evan Lockyer, Chris Butler, Evan Kent, Jon Ralph, Marcus Freake, Trevor Humby, Cecil Johnson, Shane Tobin and Micheal Ryan. Defencemen coming back include second-year player Alex Tulk along with Andrew Gillard, Colin King, Joel Foster and Brandon Tilley.
Who’s gone: Forward Andrew Mackey and defenceman Ben Pritchett
Newcomers: Jordan Wells and Brian Hurley, Trevor Forward, Drake Dower, Kyle Bown and Alexander David. Andrew Walsh, a 19 year old defenseman from Walkerton, Ont., was chosen first overall in the league’s September draft.
C.B.N. Slatework Stars
2011-12 record (placing): 9-16-3 (seventh)
Coach: Rob Button
Home rink/starting times: Bay Arena, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Who’s back: Among others, Tyler Adams, James Lanning, Andrew Smith, Saige Peddle and Jacob Lewis.
Who’s gone: Nathan Mayo, Jason Penny
Newcomers: Cody Batten, Bradley Budden, Robbie Earle, Ryan Barrett, Connor Thompson
Quote: “We should be in the middle of the pack, fourth or fifth place. We’ll be in the mix,“ insists General manager Brian Hurley
I.J. Smith & Sons Flyers
2011-12 record (placing): 14-13-1 (fourth)
Coach: Eugene Hutchings
Home rink: Trinity Placentia Stadium, 2:30 p.m., Sunday
Who’s back: Among those returning are defenceman Cody McNamara along with Paul Hutchings, Darrin Wilkins, Jeremy Nicholas and goalie Matt Power.
Who’s gone: Zach Lodge, Robert Inder, Brett Skiffington
Newcomers: Jonathan Oake Brandon Inder
Quote: “We’ve lost three top defenceman, but last year we only had one scoring line and this year we have three. I think will be right at the top, one or two (of the standings).” — Coach Hutchings
McKay Marshall Capitals
2011-12 record (placing): 16-10-2 (third)
Coach: Derick Hutchens
Home rink/starting times: Goulds Arena, 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Who’s back: Goaltender Andrew Caines, who Hutchens calls “The best goalie, hands down, in the league last year. We’re expecting big things out of him.” Among the other returnees are Alex Powell, Mike Cole, Bob Squires, Matthew Scott, captain Kevin Huestis, Scott Marshall
Who’s gone: Mark Rideout
Newcomers: Andrew Marshall (from Maritime Junior A League Dieppe Commandos) and Ben Marshall, his cousin.
This weekend’s schedule
8 p.m., Twin Rinks, Blades vs Caps
8:10 p.m., Robert French Memorial
Stadium, Flyers vs Renegades
8:30 p.m., Goulds Arena, Stars vs Capitals
6:30 p.m.,. Jack Byrne Arena, Caps vs Celtics
7:15 p.m., Glacier, Renegades vs Blades