St. Stephen – Fans of the St. Stephen Aces won’t have to wait much longer for the season to begin.
The Aces training camp is slated to kick off Sunday, at the Garcelon Civic Center.
The preseason is scheduled to begin shortly after – the Aces are slated to host the Woodstock Slammers next Friday (Sept. 1) at the Garcelon Civic Center, and travel to Edmundston on Sept. 2 to meet the Blizzard. Puck drop for both games is 7 p.m.
The home opener for the regular season is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.
In an office at the Garcelon Civic Center in which Aces head coach Phil Richer shares with his staff, is an oversized white board, with the names of players who are attending training camp – 37 – neatly affixed in categories, labeled defence, forwards, and goalies.
“My board looks good now; it may not look good in two days,” Richer joked Monday during an interview.
“Another few days for sure, it will be a crystal ball, and then it’s going to start. The picture is going to get a little more clear as the week goes on with the major junior camps really getting underway.”
Some familiar names of players from Charlotte County have been invited to camp.
Sam McGaw, of St. Stephen, is slated to attend. The 17-year-old defenceman played three games with the Aces in the last season while injury plagued the squad. He was a part of the Saint John Vito’s that claimed silver in the Telus Cup in the 2015-2016 season, and played for Rothesay Netherwood School last season.
Daniel Cunningham, of Pennfield, is another local name attending camp. As a graduate of the class of 2017 at Fundy Middle and High School, the 18-year-old forward played bantam AAA with the Saint John Sea Dogs, and was the captain and leading scorer with the AA midget Charlotte County Whalers in the previous season.
Also attending the camp will be Tuomas Boland, a former teammate of Cunningham’s on the Fundy High School Mariners hockey team, who became a solid addition in net to the St. Stephen Spartans varsity hockey squad last season.
Blake Young, of Oak Bay, who made the St. Stephen Spartans team in his Grade 9 year in the 2015-2016 season has been invited to camp as a free agent. Last season, he played for the Saint John Vito’s.
Who will wear the ‘C’?
With Ricky Young no longer on the squad as a 20-yearold, the question remains as to who will be awarded the captain’s position.
Richer said a captain and alternates have not yet been chosen.
At the end of last season, Nathan Ellsworth (20-year-old), Brady Griffin-Hefford and Hunter Wood each wore an ‘A’.
Richer said Wood will not be returning, saying the forward wishes to focus on his education, and Griffin-Hefford, forward, traded to Amherst, those alternate captain roles will also need to be filled.
“As a staff with three new guys, we wanna try to get to know them a little bit and see how they are in the dressing room, but we will have our captain before our home opener,” Richer said.
“We’ll know pretty quick, but we don’t know any of them, so were trying to get to know them a little bit.”
What’s up in net?
Netminder Levi Denny is slated to return, and Jack Grant was picked up in the draft in a trade with Woodstock.
Grant was also invited to participate in the Moncton Wildcats training camp.
Richer said he is looking forward to the dynamic between the two netminders.
“It’s going to be competition right off the first day of training camp. It’s who’s going to show off to be more prepared and who’s going to work hard.
“It’s going to be a very good duo in the league and they’re going to have to work for it. It’s going to be an internal competition between the two of them – it’s just going to make them better.”
Pat Daley is slated to attend camp – the 20-year-old forward played for the squad in the 2015-2016 season, and played five games in the beginning of last season, but chose to take some time off.
Mark Perone, an 18-year-old defenceman from Toronto will also attend camp as a free agent.
Casey Fox has been invited to attend camp, but is currently participating in the Moncton Wildcats camp. He’s played in one preseason game, and netted one goal.
Alex Lafrenière and Ben Reid are currently at the Saint John Sea Dogs camp – Lafrenière has played three games, and netted one goal, while Reid has played in four and scored two.
Keegan Gauthier is currently at the Acadie-Bathurst camp – playing in one game, Gauthier scored on goal.
Fast and Furious
Training camp will kick off with practices and scrimmages, and the Aces will travel to Woodstock Tuesday for a preseason match, host the Slammers Friday, and travel to Edmundston to meet the Blizzard Saturday.
“I’m excited now the time has come around; we’ve had time to prep, and I’ve had time to get my feet wet, know the town, and I’m just excited to get things going,” Richer said.
“We did a lot of work in the last month to have a good camp, and especially with a good mix of returning players, we’ll have a competitive training camp. It’s going to be fun; it’s going to be a lot of competition, and nobody is guaranteed anything.”