The ten time defending league champion St. John’s Privateers drop the puck on their 25th season this Saturday at the Lewisporte Stadium, but don’t engrave the 11th straight trophy and 20th overall just yet.
For the first time in a long time, the Privateers may not be the odds on favorite to take the Provincial Crown, and that’s just fine with Head Coach and General Manager Doug Jackman.
“Last year we rolled through the competition here on the island, only losing one game in regulation through the entire season and going 8-0 in the playoffs. Any coach will tell you, that kind of success comes with its own set of problems.”
In addition, the Privateers have lost the services of forwards Clark Bishop and Marcus Cuomo to the QMJHL, Matthew Kennedy to St. Andrews College, and Luke McCaw to Athol College of Notre Dame. “Sure those guys are gone,” Jackman states, “but we have a very capable group coming in behind them. There are guys here who are now going to get the opportunity to prove themselves as leaders at the Major Midget level. Bishop, Cuomo, and Kennedy had nothing left to prove here and McCaw had a great opportunity to go to a first class organization in Notre Dame. We are about winning games and championships, but we are also about moving players to the next level of hockey, and we are proud of those guys for what they have achieved.”
By comparison, the Western Kings have their entire 2011-2012 roster available and have added a player with QMJHL experience in talented forward Jordan Kennedy. Also, the St. John’s Maple Leafs have a revamped coaching staff led by local coaching legends Eddie Oates and Donnie Roche along with two veteran goalies returning. 2012-2013 is shaping up to bring the parity in the league that Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has been looking for over the past few years.
Jackman is excited by the prospect of a deep, veteran team, which has the foundation of every champion – solid defence and goaltending - combined with a talented group of forwards. “We are returning a group of six defensemen that all played with us last year and they will no doubt be our foundation. Our goaltending tandem could be the best in the league with 2011 Canada Games starting goalie Mitchell Puddester and rookie Chris Smith, who has been impressive in camp. I expect our forward group to score by committee as they did last year, and if anything, we may be deeper in terms of a team that can play four lines.”
The Privateers 2012-2013 roster is listed below with some comments from the coaching staff:
#31 Mitchell Puddester – Puddester has the capability to be the best goalie in this league. He is a gamer who can raise the level of his teammates. Mitch is a fantastic communicator and his defensemen appreciate that voice behind them.
#40 Chris Smith – Smitty is a student of the position. He works very hard on the technical part of his game. As a player coming in from Bantam, his challenge will be to adapt to the speed and strength of shooters at this level. So far, he has acquitted himself very well.
#8 Luke Peddle – Peddle played as an AP last year, but found himself in more than half of the Privateers games as a result of a season ending injury to Matthew Caines. Peddle has gotten stronger over the off season and could be the Privateers most naturally offensively gifted point man.
#16 Matthew Caines – Caines underwent season ending shoulder surgery in early 2012 and has been rehabbing hard since. Before getting sidelined with the injury, Caines was putting up great numbers offensively while battling hard in his own zone. With a comeback season, he has the potential to tip the balance of the whole team.
#19 Stephen LeDrew – LeDrew, a Truro Bearcats draftee, will wear the captain’s C and is coming off a breakout season that saw him develop into a reliable defensive defenseman. LeDrew’s leadership skills really developed under the influence of Marcus Cuomo (Saint John Sea Dogs) last season and the team will need LeDrew to keep that professional approach this season.
#22 Matthew Downer – Another veteran defenseman, Downer plays a simple, yet effective game. Downer reads the play very well and may very well be the smartest player in the NLMMHL.
#27 Lee Dower – A sophomore, Dower really came into his own during the 11/12 season. A rugged, physically imposing defenseman, he will not shy away from the tough areas and will sacrifice his body to make a play. Dower spent much of last season learning from Nick Lindstrom (now with the Woodstock Slammers) and his game has matured very quickly. The Privateers will look to Dower in all situations this year to be a key contributor.
#43 Dylan O’Leary – Another veteran playing his third year in the league, O’Leary brings experience along with his heavy shot, smooth skating, and physical edge. The Woodstock Slammers draft pick was a leader on the team last year and he will be expected to be a calming influence both on and off the ice to the new players on the team.
#4 Zach Tucker – Tucker is returning from a year at the Ontario Hockey Academy where he spent the 11/12 season. Prior to that, Tucker was the top scorer and MVP of the Doug Marshall League in his first year of midget. He is very gifted offensively and has found his way onto the score sheet at every level.
#5 Ben Cleary – Cleary had a breakout season with the Privateers in 11/12. Known more for his offensive skill coming in, Cleary embraced his role and honed his grinder skills, thus becoming a valuable asset to the organization. Cleary can contribute on any one of the four lines, and that’s what is needed from a veteran leader. Sounds eerily familiar to his cousin Danny.
#6 Liam Careen – Careen is a gifted offensive player who has worked on his strength and conditioning over the summer. It really showed in training camp and we need him to contribute on the score sheet this season.
#9 Lucas Lush – Coming off a stellar season in the DMHL, Lush brings speed and grit to a lineup that needs that bit of sandpaper. We look for Lucas to create opportunities for his line mates with his speed and be a solid two-way forward.
#10 Andrew Haley – Haley is another graduate of the DMHL who has made the jump to Major Midget this season. Andrew has good speed and a good set of hands and he isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners.
#11 Shayne Kavanagh – Another rugged winger, Kavanagh jumped right into the fire in Major Midget by taking on the biggest player on the other team in his first exhibition game. From the Southern Shore, Shayne brings that work ethic and determination that the Southern Shore Breakers are well known for.
#12 Brad Mitchelmore – A graduate of the Mount Pearl Minor Hockey Association, “Garf” as he is known to his teammates, is a big centre who is an asset in the faceoff circle and on the PK.
#14 Brett Vokey – A tall winger, Vokey is a natural goal scorer who should find himself near the top of the league in points this season. After a year of seasoning as a rookie, Vokey worked very hard in the off season with trainer Ryan Power to improve his strength. It has showed in the pre-season.
#15 Blake Dalton – Dalton spent his Major Bantam year at the CIH Academy in Ontario last season. The speedy centre has a nose for the net and is very creative. As a rookie, Dalton will need to work on his defensive game to round himself out as an elite player.
#17 Cameron Dunn – Dunn was not on the radar of the coaching staff heading into training camp to be a roster player. He is the classic example of a player who made it impossible for the coaches to cut him. Dunn is in amazing shape and won the team fitness training as a rookie. Look for him to be an effective bottom six winger as the season gets going.
#21 Luke Tilley – Another six foot winger, Tilley plays an honest game up and down the wing and has the ability to chip in offensively. Another graduate of the Canada Games program, the 3rd year veteran should be a reliable player for the Privateers this season.
#44 Peter Kavanagh – The team’s leading scorer from the regular season last year, Peter returns to the team after being drafted by the Summerside Capitals in the MHL draft. With Summerside loading up for a run in the Junior A ranks, Kavanagh has a season left in Newfoundland to hone his leadership skills while being put in a situation to be an offensive leader.
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NL Major Midget "AAA" - St. John's Maple Leafs, Western Kings, Central IcePak, and the Northern Huskies.
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