2018-19 Season Preview: Eastlink South Division

The Yarmouth Mariners captured the 2017-18 Eastlink South Division banner in five games over the South Shore Lumberjacks.

Amherst Ramblers
2017-18 in Review
Record: 27-11-6-6 (3rd in Eastlink South)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to South Shore in 1st Round
Goals For: 181 (4th)
Goals Against: 158 (T-6th)
Powerplay: 19.4% (7th)
Penalty Kill: 76.7% (11th)
Leading Scorers
Jordan King (28-50-78, not returning)
Brady Griffin-Hefford (25-32-57, not returning)
Liam Conrad (23-24-47, not returning)

Good in Goal
If there’s any area the Amherst Ramblers should be able to point to as a strength, it’s between the pipes. Joel Goguen returns after posting a 15-8-3 record and a 2.66 GAA to go along with a .915 save percentage last season. Twenty-year-old Matt Williams was acquired from Summerside in the off-season. He returns to the MHL after a season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs.

Returnees on Defence
The Ramblers have five players returning to the blueline from the 2017-18 squad. Dawson Grenier and Matt Sartoris are the two 1998s of the group. Complimenting that group is 2017 2nd Round draft pick Alex Wynter and the addition of Linden Namagoose from Kirkland Lake, who also played in the Eastern Canada Cup.

Trading for Forwards
With the Fred Page Cup in Amherst this season, the Ramblers had the difficult task of building a team after giving up a number of assets last season as they made a run at a league title. Six of the forwards arrived via trades: Hunter McIntrye (Summerside), Aidan McFarland (Kingston), Nick Snow (St Jerome), Stephen Fox (South Shore), Alex Lafreniere (St. Stephen), and Matt Green (Miramichi). Green, in particular, is a major addition, having spent the past four seasons with the Sea Dogs. Casey Fox split time between St. Stephen and the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats over the last two seasons, and has nearly been a point per game player in the MHL. Of the few returning players up front, Will Lafford was the highest scorer (12-17-29) last season.

South Shore Lumberjacks
2017-18 in Review
Record: 31-15-2-2 (2nd in Eastlink South)
Playoffs: Lost in five games to Yarmouth in 2nd Round
Goals For: 193 (2nd)
Goals Against: 132 (2nd)
Powerplay: 16.9% (9th)
Penalty Kill: 81.2% (6th)
Leading Scorers
Logan O’Neil (26-29-55)
Mateo Short (31-23-54, not returning)
Samuel Cyr-Ledoux (13-27-40, not returning)

A Lot to Build On
After an exciting season in Bridgewater, the Lumberjacks are taking aim at the top of the division. Logan O’Neil was 10th in league scoring last season, with the 7th most goals. Christian Tsukamoto and Nicolas Tardiff are two of the four 1998s back. South Shore added five forwards through trade, including an intriguing player in Brandon Stone from Summerside. The 18-year-old was a First Team All-Star and scored a league-leading 37 goals with the NSMMHL’s Halifax MacDonald’s in 2016-17. Rookie Joe Bouchard was acquired from Amherst, after being selected as a Territorial Draft Pick in June.

Scoring Support
One area the Lumberjacks excelled in last season was getting scoring from their defencemen. Jonathan Mason (6-15-21) and Matt Sabean (4-18-22) are back. 2018 draft pick Connor McCluskey put up 15 points in 34 games with the Saint John Vito’s last year.

Janes Returns
MacKenzie Janes will lead the way in goal for the Lumberjacks this season after splitting time with Connor McCollum in 2017-18. South Shore will be hoping for a repeat of his 2.39 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Truro Bearcats
2017-18 in Review
Record: 28-20-1-1 (4th in Eastlink South)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Yarmouth in 1st Round
Goals For: 150 (8th)
Goals Against: 130 (1st)
Powerplay: 20.1% (6th)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (T-3rd)
Leading Scorers
Campbell Pickard (34-35-69, not returning)
Cam MacLeod (24-18-42, not returning)
Dylan Burton (16-18-34)

Young Defence
The Truro Bearcats saw four defencemen graduate last season. There were no guarantees that potential returnees Curtis Heffernan and Jack McGovern would be back in the fold, but both were released from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and will anchor the blueline for Truro. Lauchie MacDonald was recently acquired from Yarmouth and will lend some experience to the back end. The Bearcats are starting three draft picks from June in 1st rounder Damien Hartt, as well as 5th rounder Camdon Langlois and 6th rounder Marc Aucoin.

Experience in Goal
Truro swung a deal in June for Myles Hektor from Edmundston. The 20-year-old posted a 2.57 GAA and .908 save percentage for the league champions last season in thirteen starts, and went 4-1 in the playoffs. Alec MacDonald, returns to Truro after splitting time between the Hub and the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.

Big Returns
Despite the off-season questions on defence, Truro knew it would hang a steady group up front. Dylan Burton is one of seven returnees from last season. Will Mizuik and Ryan Porter are the other 98s back in the fold. One addition that can’t be understated is G Blackmore. He joined Truro for the 2016-17 playoffs, playing a major part in their league championship run, and then went to Moncton last year. Separate trades with St. Stephen landed Luc Arsenault and Kyle Sexton. Shaun Bily, with four years of OHL and QMJHL experience, is another intriguing addition.

Valley Wildcats
2017-18 in Review
Record: 17-31-1-1 (6th in Eastlink South)
Goals For: 140 (9th)
Goals Against: 196 (11th)
Powerplay: 17.3% (8th)
Penalty Kill: 80.2% (8th)
Leading Scorers
Brock MacLeod (17-42-59)
Makail Parker (23-28-51, not returning)
Brett Tidman (15-15-30, not returning)

Active Off-Season for the Blueliners
The Valley Wildcats made fourteen trades this off-season as they aim for a playoff berth in a highly competitive South Division. Matt Duggan (Yarmouth), Quinten Johnson (Pictou County), Nick Deagle (Campbellton), and Jean-Mathieu Lavoie (Hawkesbury, CCHL) make up a good core with returnees Donavon Beatty and Cameron Allaby.

New Goaltenders
Liam MacDonald started 59 games over the last two seasons for the Woodstock Slammers, now Grand Falls Rapids, posting a 3.40 GAA and a .903 save percentage. The Wildcats presumptive starter, Cole MacLaren, made the Halifax Moooseheads, so the second goaltender to start the season is Brent Walters.

Mix of Old and New
Brock MacLeod looks to lead Valley in scoring for another season, with Matt Warner (12-14-26) and Tristan Bowlby the returning 1998s. Landon Quinney joins Valley after two seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Zach Falck is a player to keep an eye on after posting 42-34-76 and winning a Manitoba Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League title with the Winnipeg Wild. Add in recent draft picks Sam Grant and Darren Waterman, and there are a lot of reasons for optimism in Berwick.

Weeks Crushers
2017-18 in Review
Record: 21-24-3-2 (5th in Eastlink South)
Goals For: 157 (7th)
Goals Against: 173 (9th)
Powerplay: 21.5% (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 79.0% (9th)
Leading Scorers
Michael Dill (24-38-62, not returning)
Dylan Riley (22-30-52)
Jacob Hickey (28-23-51)

Loaded Up Front
Two of the Crushers’ top three goal scorers return this season in Riley and Hickey, boosting a forward group that also has 1998s Tyler Hutchinson and Evan MacLennan back in the mix. Barrett Dachyshyn joins after three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads, bringing some size up front along with Hutchinson. By the end of the season, this could be one of the top groups in the MHL. Evan Gallant was the 5th overall draft pick by St. Stephen in 2017 and will be a young player to watch in addition to 2017 Crushers draft picks Chad Wilson and Brayden Ryan.

Revamped Defence
Aiden Hickey and Michael Fradette are the two returnees on defence. 2018 6th round draft pick Michael Genge is getting a look this season. Aleck Forcier will be a force to be reckoned with, coming in from the Eastern Hockey League. The 20-year-old posted 80 points in 75 games over two seasons with New England, in addition to 393 penalty minutes.

Normore Back
Matt Normore returns for the Crushers in goal after posting a 3.12 GAA and 0.888 save percentage last season in 17 starts. The team brought in 20-year-old Sean Julien, who spent the last three seasons with the Collège Champlain Cougars of the QCHL, posting a GAA of 2.68 last season and 2.16 the season before.

Yarmouth Mariners
2017-18 in Review
Record: 35-14-1-0 (1st in Eastlink South)
Playoffs: Lost in six games to Edmundston in MHL Cup Championship
Goals For: 185 (3rd)
Goals Against: 137 (T-3rd)
Powerplay: 21.1% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 83.5% (5th)
Leading Scorers
Matt Barron (9-40-49)
Aaron Maillet (24-22-46, not returning)
Luc Poirier (21-22-43, not returning)

Familiar Names Should Yield Familiar Results
The 2017-18 season was an exciting one in Yarmouth, with the team rolling to the final, where it was a hard fought loss to Edmundston in six games. There’s no replacement for playoff experience, and the returning forwards for the Mariners certainly have that. Last year’s leading scorer, Matt Barron, is back alongside Brent Broaders, Andrew Martell, Connor Peveril, and Logan Timmons. Brett Crossley will call the Fish Tank home after four seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads. Overall, Yarmouth should expect nothing less than high octane action from this group.

Strong on Defence
Again, this is a close group that play exceptionally well together. Led by returnees Kaleb Boudreau, Noah McMullin, Chris Goreham, and Derrick Johnson, Yarmouth will be quick in transition. Late addition Kevin Parr-Vaughan will be one of the new players to watch for the Mariners.

Hard to Replace
Replacing Leif Hertz was never going to be easy for the Mariners, and the early season should tell how successful that effort has been. Tyler Caseley was an 8th round selection in the 2017 draft, and will be joined by 2001-born Alex MacVicar.

James Faulkner
Director of Communications
Maritime Hockey League