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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Hamilton Red Wings goalie Mark Sinclair (centre) was named most valuable player at the team awards dinner last week. With Sinclair are Red Wings’ goalie coach Pat DiPronio (left) and assistant coach Chris Dunsmuir.

Red Wings begin planning next season

Mark Sinclair named team MVP

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

While the season is over for Hamilton Red Wings players, the coaching staff has already begun preparations for next September.

Red Wings head coach John McDonald said they’ve been scouting prospects at local minor hockey and high school games.

“This is when all the playoffs finish in minor hockey so we have to hit the road now,” said McDonald, who feels there are a number of minor midget and midget players in the Hamilton Huskies and Junior Bulldogs organizations that could crack the line-up next season.

The team is also looking to bolster the roster with some players from the Junior B leagues.

“I think we need to attract a couple of older players that can help us put more pucks in the net,” said McDonald, who noted he can start approaching players around the third week of April.

A rookie tryout camp will be held in late April or early May.

McDonald said 22 players are eligible to return next season although it’s expected some will move on to other junior hockey clubs.

“We’ll make some changes on our sown because we need to,” McDonald said.

Only defenceman Niko Porikos is not eligible to return due to age.

McDonald noted the team opened the season with 20 players who have never played at the junior A level before and got off to a fast start.

But after losing defenceman and team captain Jason O’Connor to injury and forward Christiano DiGiacinto (who scored eight goals and added three assists in nine games) to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, the team fell into a losing skid through November and December that it couldn’t shake off.

“We got into a tailspin and we couldn’t get out of it for a while, that probably ended our season for us right there,” McDonald said.

The Red Wings lost 15 games by two goals or less.

A win in half of those contests would have put them in the playoffs.

“We gave away some games that young teams are going to give away,” McDonald said.

On the plus side, the Red Wings will have a strong nucleus of players back next season.

“Now that these guys have had the experience, we should be ready to go on day one,” McDonald said.

If team MVP Mark Sinclair returns, the Red Wings will enter the 2014-15 campaign with solid goaltending.

The 18-year-old Dundas resident cemented his job as the team’s number one puck-stopper with some outstanding play in the second half of the season.

“He comes every night looking to learn, looking to get better,” McDonald said of Sinclair. “The competitive edge in Mark is what makes him so good.”

The Red Wings held their awards dinner at the Dave Andreychuk-Mountain Arena March 3.

Some of the trophies had not been awarded since 2006.

Along with Sinclair being named most valuable player, Marco Mattina won the inaugural Dr. W.R. McMillan award named in memory of the late William Robert McMillan who was one of the founders of the Hamilton Kilty B’s (now Red Wings) and was a long-time team president.

Liam Bird won the Mountain News-Blair Wray Memorial Award for leadership; Matt Smith was named best defensive forward; Josh La France was the most improved player; Connor Bramwell was the hardest worker; Corey Caruso was rookie of the year and Joel Knight was given the Bill Nichols Kilty/Red Wing award.

Penny Castonguay and her son Trevor were given the team’s outstanding contribution award.

Since joining the team several years ago, the Castonguays have done a variety of volunteer jobs for the Red Wings including promotion and looking after players’ sweaters and equipment and billeting out-of-town players.

 

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