Young squad expected to contend for championship in the future
Unlike the past few years, this season’s edition of the Hamilton Red Wings features a line-up almost exclusively from the Hamilton area.
“That was our goal,” said John McDonald who returns as team head coach after leaving the organization following the 2006-2007 season that saw the Red Wings win the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League West Conference championship. “I think the group of players we have will eventually bring the fans because they’re going to prove they’re good enough to play in this league and they can play with anybody in this league.”
With only five wins and dwindling attendance last season, there is much hope for the now Ontario Junior Hockey League club in 2013-14.
Like he did when he was behind the Red Wings’ bench the last time, McDonald has recruited a young squad he is hoping will be competitive this season and challenge for a championship in the future.
With about half of his roster under 18, McDonald said patience will be the key to success this season.
“You have to be patient, you have to do a lot of teaching,” McDonald said. “Any time you take over a team where you haven’t coached the year before, it’s a learning curve for most of the players,” McDonald said.
Here’s a preview of the Red Wings heading into the first game of the season in Burlingtonon Saturday night.
Who will be the Red Wings’ number one goalie is a big question that should get answered early in the season.
Seventeen-year-old Mark Sinclair, who looked good in net with the junior C Dundas Blues last season, will battle for the starting job with 18-year-old Corey Foster.
Both are expected to split the first few games with the hottest netminder shouldering most of the work.
Foster, a Hamilton Junior Bulldogs grad is back inHamilton after spending last season with the Fresno Monsters of the Western States Hockey League.
Sinclair is back in town after working out with the OHL Kingston Frontenacs.
This group of mostly big and bruising rearguards has the potential to dominate the league in the future.
Eighteen-year-old Jason O’Connor is back from last season.
At five-foot seven, the speedy Stoney Creek resident and team captain is the smallest of Red Wings’ blueline corps.
Also returning is six-foot three, 195 pound Niko Porikos.
The veterans are joined by: 18-year-old Joel Knight, a six-foot 175 pound Orchard Park student who played with the junior C Glanbrook Rangers last season; 17-year-old Brandon Kolaski, a six-foot two, 195 pounder who also played with the Rangers last season; Josh Chiarot, a 16-year-old six-foot three 215 pound Hamilton Huskies grad and 11th round draft pick of the OHL North Bay Battalion; 17-year-old Justin Whitwell, five-foot 11, 175 pounds, he is a Stoney Creek resident who played major midget AAA hockey with the Hamilton Junior Bulldogs last season and 18-year-old Chance MacDonald, six-foot three 215 pounds, the Puslinch resident played high school prep hockey in the U.S. last season and is attending Highland Secondary School in Dundas this year.
Hamilton resident Liam Bird is back as is Dundas resident Luke Sinclair (brother of Mark), who was picked up recently in a deal with Burlington.
Both are 19.
Other forwards include 16-year-olds Connor Bramwell, a Hamilton Huskies grad and Cole Poliziani, a fast-skating centre from Burlington who played with the AAA minor midget Guelph Storm last season; 17-year-old Sherwood high school student Christiano DiGiacinto, who played with the Hamilton Huskies AAA major midget club last season; 17-year-old Corey Caruso, a Hamilton Huskies grad and draft pick of the OHL Oshawa Generals; 17-year-old Nathan Gomes, a Burlington major midget product; 17-year-old Ryan Laufman, an Ancaster resident who played with the Hamilton Junior Bulldogs’ major midget team last season; 19-year-old Mitchell Reid, a Sherwood high school graduate who played with the junior C Dundas Blues last season; 19-year-old Josh LaFrance, a Midland resident who played junior C hockey in Midland last season; 19-year-old Alexander Zaccaria, an Ancaster resident who comes to Hamilton from the former Stoney Creek Warriors junior B organization; 18-year-old Matt Smith, a University of Guelph student who played major midget hockey in Burlington last season and 17-year-old Garnet Batrynchuk, a Hamilton Sir Winston Churchill high school student and another Hamilton Huskies grad.
The Red Wings host Burlington in their home opener this coming Monday, 7:30 p.m. at the Dave Andreychuk-Mountain Arena.
McDonald said forward Liam Bird will likely miss the game after taking six stitches in his left elbow during practice last week.
Captain Jason O’Connor is day-to-day with a lower back injury.