Sports

GM says players must be ready to work every game

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

Delhi Travellers goalie Liam Mullett keeps his eye on the puck during a 2016-17 PJHL contest. The Travellers will begin this year's campaign Sept. 15 vs. the Burford Bulldogs. Simcoe Reformer file photo

Delhi Travellers goalie Liam Mullett keeps his eye on the puck during a 2016-17 PJHL contest. The Travellers will begin this year's campaign Sept. 15 vs. the Burford Bulldogs. Simcoe Reformer file photo

DELHI - 

Fans of the Delhi Travellers can expect to see a group of familiar faces when the team hits the ice for the 2017-18 Provincial Junior Hockey League season.

“We’ll have all locals,” said general manager Chris Longthorne. “We have one or two kids coming from out of town (but) it will be a really local bunch (from) Norfolk and we’ve got a few Norwich kids.”

The lineup is likely to be finalized early this week, just in time for the group to prepare for the home opener Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. vs. Burford.

Going into last weekend, Delhi had already played a pair of exhibition games, dropping both (9-2 vs. North Middlesex and 6-2 vs. Lambeth).

But Longthorne attributed the losses to the players needing to get into the rhythm of playing a full 60-minute contest, rather than to a lack of talent.

“We’re going to need to tighten up on a few things – we had some faces we didn’t see (at practices) all summer that we would’ve liked to see,” he added. “We need to get in better shape. From what I’ve seen in the exhibition games, we just need to be there in the third. I think conditioning is going to play the biggest role for us more than anything. We’ve got plenty of talent to go around (but) the conditioning is where things are at.”

One major loss to the Delhi roster is captain Chad Ingalls. The Woodstock native put up 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists), good for second in team scoring last season, which was his overage season with the club.

Longthorne categorized Ingalls’s departure as a “fairly substantial one, but somebody is going to have to step up and take that role.”

Defenceman and Delhi native Jared Misener will return. He was tied for third on the club with 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) last season. Up front, Delhi welcomes back Brody Hunt (8 points in 15 games last season) and Brady Reid (5 points in 39 games), both are Woodstock natives.

It’s no secret Delhi has struggled to post wins in recent seasons with just five in the past two campaigns.

Longthorne stopped short of making concrete predictions but did hint that things will be different in his third season at the helm.

“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t come through on but I think, if we get out on the right foot, I can’t see why we won’t (improve),” he said. “My expectations are certainly high.”

The GM said he expects the players to “come to work” every game.

“With the guys we’ve got in place, if they’re not there to work every night and give 100 per cent they won’t be (playing),” he said.

“Forward motion is where I have to head. And, with what’s gone on with the club, it’s tough to get out of that funk. But we’re going to do everything we can to get it back to respectable and ... play .500 hockey and, hopefully, well above.”

Longthorne said he would like to see large crowds turn out to see the Travellers for both the home opener and throughout the season. Getting folks into the stands is imperative for the sustained health of the organization, he said.

“A lot of people don’t realize it’s still a town-owned team, one of the few that’s left out there. And the way these teams are going to survive is if people come out and support,” he explained.

“We thank all our sponsors for helping us out because without the sponsors and the support of the town we probably wouldn’t have a team.”

A full 2017-18 team schedule is posted at jrdtravellers.pointstreaksites.com.

jrobinson@postmedia.com