Rob Sadler, GM
North Dundas Rockets
The 2018-2019 National Capital Junior Hockey League season has been one of peaks and valleys for the North Dundas Rockets throughout the first half of the year. Currently holding a record of 12-8-1 and the second seed in the NCJHL West Division, the Rockets are looking to get things together and make a serious run in 2019.
The club started the season with an 0-4 record while outshooting opponents two to one in those games. The offence failed to benefit from any puck-luck in the scoring department. Following the slow start, the team rebounded throughout October and November going 8-1-1 before the 3-3 record in December had them trying to find themselves heading into January.
Injuries to Thomas Leggett, Brodie Barkley and Hugo Lusignan combined with exam commitments throughout December have hampered this teams ability to maintain its pace. The good news is that exams are over and the team is expecting a renewed attendance commitment and the return of Barkley and Lusignan to the lineup.
A bit of bad news is that three year Junior A veteran Thomas Leggett will not be cleared to play again this season after sustaining a concussion earlier in November. This will leave a hole in the team’s blue line.
On the more positive side of things, team captain and local resident Bradley Stitt, has been the MVP of the NCJHL; so far this season he has scored 18 goals, 25 assists and 43 points throughout 21 games, and in our opinion, has proven to be the leader of this team in every aspect.
Justin Lefebvre, who was NCJHL rookie of the year last season also continues to fill the net as he is currently tied for third in league scoring with 23 goals, 32 assists and 55 points throughout 21 games.
The addition of Mountain resident Jarrett Williams from the Kemptville 73’s Junior A team will also be a big boost to the lineup in 2019. Along with Williams, Tom Fingler is expected back in the lineup for the second half of the year as well; meaning the team basically adds two local Junior A caliber players into the new year.
Chesterville native, Brodie Barkley continues to anchor the blue line along with second year Rocket, Matthew Cowley and former Rideau St Lawrence King Cameron Brown. A surprise on the back end this year has been the play of rookie Pierce Egan, who continues to display poise and solid decision making with the puck, and seems to improve each weekend that he’s on the ice. The team has also been solid in nets under the guidance of veteran Reilly Tondreau and rookie Caleb Gervais.
There is also some light in the Rockets’ future as Seaway Valley Rapid product and Finch resident Carter Tait has proven that he belongs in this league and continues to develop into a good two-way hockey player, with a few years ahead of him on this team.
We’ve also had some help from local affiliates, specifically, Jackson Thom; whose father Jimmy was a member of the Chesterville Junior C Flyers in the 80’s; Ethan Peterson (Osgoode Minor Hockey), Curtis Bowman (North Dundas Minor Hockey), Kobey Young (North Dundas Minor Hockey) and Matthew Cote (Russell Minor Hockey Association).
To be honest, from a general manager point of view, it would be excellent to get some affiliation games out of a few other local midgets in the area; and hopefully into the next season, the Junior leagues and the high school hockey league can come together and find a way to make that happen.
Currently with the rules as they are, kids are not permitted to play Junior hockey and high school hockey at the same time; which, in my opinion, limits their ability to play more hockey throughout the course of a season as they are forced to choose. Most play high school, which is an opportunity to represent their respective schools in the area; which is equally as important as the Junior hockey programs in the area as well.
Some improvements that this team will need to compete moving into the second half are health, commitment and consistency. If we can’t ice our team each and every night for whatever the reason, it will continue to be an uphill battle each weekend. We have made some moves over the holidays to remove a couple of non-committed players from the roster, guys who could be an asset but place themselves above the team; which is no longer and was never acceptable.
Accountability and practice time will also be key focal points for this group. The consistent effort level has to be there every game and we have struggled to get practices in throughout December for various scheduling conflicts; this I am certain has contributed to the .500 record we finished the month with.
The quality of hockey in the NCJHL has increased dramatically over the past four years, since I joined this league. A talented roster like we have, will allow a team to compete but to win consistently, the work ethic and commitment must accompany the talent.
On paper we have the right team. Hopefully our leadership group, the coaches and myself can work together and get things started off positively.
On a final note, the Rockets would again like to extend their appreciation to all the sponsors and support we have had this season. The community continues to support us at the rink in terms of crowds; hopefully we can earn that support with a strong second half of the season.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and great 2019!