The Chatham Maroons will begin the regular season this weekend at the GOJHL Showcase in Pelham.
Opportunity is the theme for the Chatham Maroons this season.
The few remaining veterans have the opportunity to take on a bigger role. And the many newcomers have the opportunity to prove they belong in junior ‘B’ hockey.
The new season begins this weekend with the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) Showcase in Pelham.
The Maroons will play two reigning regular-season division champions. They’ll face the Niagara Falls Canucks of the Golden Horseshoe Conference at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and the Listowel Cyclones of the Midwestern Conference at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The Canucks and Cyclones were Sutherland Cup semifinalists last spring.
Maroons head coach Kyle Makaric looks forward to the challenge. He sees the weekend as, yes, an opportunity.
“We’re thrilled about the opportunity we have with some good teams in the showcase,” Makaric said. “I like the way it’s set up so that we get a chance to get in, play some really good hockey teams and whatever happens, win or lose, you’re back at it again the next day.
“Nothing like throwing guys to the fire right away.”
The Maroons have six holdovers – forwards Griffin Robinson, Maddux Rychel, Evan Wells, Zach Power, Kyle Fisher and Brett Fisher – from the team that placed third in the Western Conference last season and lost in a quarter-final to Komoka.
“We lost obviously some 20-year-olds and guys that are offensive players that we counted on, but we have guys internally who are going to step up and fill that void,” Makaric said. “You look at guys like the Fishers. Last year they were behind some of the other guys. They’re quality players. They’re high-end guys in the league. They’re going to get more opportunity to get the chance to make their mark on the game.
“Guys like Evan Wells and Zach Power, they had good off-seasons and they’re ready to be real players. These guys are ready to contribute every single night.”
Rookie forwards Braedon Caetano, Dallas Anderson and Ty Moss bring junior ‘C’ experience, Tate Bowden and Adrian Stubberfield come from the midget ranks, and 16-year-old Blake Boudreau was a minor midget last season.
“We had a great recruiting class,” Makaric said. “We found a lot of guys that we like and a lot of guys we think could be real good players in the league.”
No defencemen have junior ‘B’ experience. Noah Sigal and Jacob Fields have played junior ‘C’, Ryan McKim and Kaleb Tiessen were midgets last season, 16-year-old Carson Noble was a minor midget, and Aleksa Babic played prep hockey.
Goalies Noah Zeppa and Tiago Rocha were also midgets last season.
Eleven players – more than half the roster – are 16 or 17 years old.
“It’s good because they’re mouldable,” Makaric said. “They get into the game, they’re willing to learn, they ask questions.
“If we’re giving them the right feedback and we catch them doing it right and we make sure we cement the things that they do good and we wash away the things that aren’t great, we’ll be able to get them doing real positive stuff and being everyday junior players real soon.”
The Maroons are counting on Robinson and Rychel – their lone 1999-born players – to be their top scorers again.
“Griff and Rychs are going to carry the mail,” Makaric said. “They’ll be able to take care of us every single day. Then the ‘D’ just need to be able to keep the puck out of our net (and the) goalies make some timely saves. Pretty good formula for success.”
Makaric is confident the youngsters will quickly adjust to the GOJHL. They’re eager to learn, he said.
“We spend a lot of time with them,” he said. “We do a lot of video. There’s a lot of resources that we can use to relate to these guys. They have their phones on them all the time. We always make sure we send them clips and give them things to look at that are positive and find ways to strive for the best version of their game.”