With just 8 days until the MJHL opening night, the OCN Blizzard will travel to Swan Valley Stampeders to kick off their 20th season and begin the quest to establish themselves as a threat for a MJHL championship.
With multiple changes taken place with the Blizzard during the off-season, October 6th will be the first chance for Blizzard fans to get their first glimpse of the new-look Blizzard as the Swan Valley Stampeders visit the GLMC.
The Blizzard have eight returnees from their 2014-15 line up, including their top offensive weapons from last season, forwards Devin Muir, Brendan Barron and defenseman Brady Keeper. Muir, Barron and Keeper combined for 126 points throughout the regular season.
Both Muir and Keeper had solid rookie seasons for the Blizzard, with Muir becoming an offensive threat with his speed and grit, finishing the season with 51 points and 50 penalty minutes in 55 regular season games.
Blueliner Keeper stepped up his game and showed his leadership and his offensive skills as he ended the season with 41 points and 160 penalty minutes.
Brendan Barron returns to finish his junior career and will look to improve on last season’s totals of 34 points. Barron’s speed and evasive puck skills established him as a force every game.
Camacho Lathlin and Adam Heinemann are both back this season to help shore up the blue line. Lathlin will finish off his junior career and is expected to provide leadership, grit and offence this season. Heinemann finished up his rookie season last year with the Blizzard and will be taking on a bigger role this season as the Blizzard strive to establish themselves as a top league contender.
Heinemann’s size and strength will provide goaltender Claeys a clear path to view the puck as Adam clears the front of the net. Assisting Heinemann with clearing the net is local product Rick Frechette. Frechette’s size will also provide the Blizzard with strong net front presence.
Defenseman Hayden Yaremko will rejoin the team and will bring a strong defensive game as his junior A experience from last season will be a benefit to the team. Cole McCartan is back with the Blizzard this season and will be looked upon to provide leadership and chip in offensively. McCartan was acquired by the Blizzard late in the season in a trade and continued to improve as the season ended. Expect big things from Cole this season.
Another area the Blizzard are excited about are the new additions to the lineup. Joining the Blizzard for the 2015-16 season is defenceman Maverick Rafter. Rafter is a player who will turn a lot of heads with his skating ability and toughness. As well, expect Maverick to contribute offensively as one of the key anchors on the blue line.
A couple of more familiar faces to Blizzard fans are returning veterans Bryce MacInnis and Tre Potskin. Both will be finishing their junior career and will be fan favorites once again with their hard-nosed, bang and crash menacing style of hockey that the OCN Blizzard fans expect from their team.
Another team favorite returning for the Blizzard this season is goaltender Brody Claeys who will be pulling on the Blizzard jersey looking to hold down the starting position for the team this season. In 2014-15, Claeys stepped into the starting position after the trade deadline and won over his teammates with his hard work and no quit attitude as he earned a .886 save percentage, 2 shut outs and single-handedly backstopped the Blizzard to a few wins late in the season.
The New Guys…
Logan Harland has joined the OCN Blizzard organization and was quick to establish himself as leader. His presence in and around the dressing room has heightened the awareness of urgency and the need for preparedness with the team and for our younger players. Coach Smith is expecting Logan to bring much needed maturity and composure to the team as the young OCN Blizzard head into the season. As well, expect Logan to put up numbers on the score board as his offensive ability is proven to be at a high level.
Jeremy Dumont has made his presence known since joining the Blizzard as he was acquired late in the summer in a trade with Kirkland Lake. Dumont’s elite puck skills have been on display during the exhibition season and the Blizzard are looking forward to Jeremy’s offense this season.
Another one of the big acquisitions during the off-season is no stranger to the Blizzard. Shane Roulette has been a player the Blizzard have been pursuing for some time and they were excited to pull off this deal late in the summer. Shane is a talented forward that will bring grit and offense to the Blizzard line up game in game out.
Brady Valiquette joins the Blizzard after a season with the Phonenix Jr Coyotes U18 of the T1EHL U18 league in the USA. Brady is a talented forward who the Blizzard will expect big things from as he put up 14 points in 24 games last season. Joining Valiquette is his teammate, US born Chris Nicolai. Another offensive threat, Chris put up 19 points in 24 games. Both players are looking to provide offense to support the team’s success.
Not all of the newcomers are strangers to OCN Blizzard. Returning to the Blizzard after a successful Midget careers include Hayden Yaremko, Anthony Keeper and Daylon Campbell. These rookies spent time with the club last season and coach Smith believes these young guys will be key to the future of the Blizzard.
Forwards Anthony Keeper and Daylon Campbell spent last season with the Norman North Stars and have showed through the exhibition season they are ready to compete at the junior A level. Both players bring a hard-working style of hockey which will be key to their success at the junior level. Coach Smith believes both players will add some offense and should turn some heads during their rookie season.
Brandon Bartley is another rookie forward who will provide a very visible work ethic both on and off the ice. A late pick up in a trade with Winkler, Bartley is no stranger to hockey and has been a great addition to the lineup.
Defenseman Rick Nicolson will also make the transition to junior hockey this season. The work ethic from Rick is at a high level and Blizzard fans should expect to see this rear guard in the Blizzard jersey for many years to come.
Finally a couple of new rookies in the Blizzard line up include Dawson Anderson and Matt Bullard. Both have been selected to finish their midget careers with the Blizzard. These young players have proven they are ready for junior A hockey throughout the preseason. Sticking with the Blizzard will provide them with the experience to develop into the future leaders for the Blizzard as well as provide a great development plan for these young players.
The OCN Blizzard’s home opener kicks off on October 6th at 7 p.m. against the Swan Valley Stampeders at Gordon Lathlin Memorial Center.
Come out and meet the OCN Blizzard players at the Bud, Spud and Steak Night at the Wescana Inn, September 26th at 6:00 pm. Many fun activities will be held during the evening. Tickets are available by calling the Blizzard office at 204-627-7077.
For more information on the 2015-16 OCN Blizzard go to ocnblizzard.com or follow us on facebook.com/ocnblizzard and twitter/instagram at @ocnblizzard.