With a change in ownership and a veteran coaching staff returning behind the bench, the Espanola Express look to continue making inroads within the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Under new team president and general manager Jason Rapcewicz, along with returning head coach Dave Clancy, the Express will look to stay on track and maintain their push for overall improvement heading into the commencement of the 2019-20 campaign.
Boasting an eight-win improvement last season under Clancy’s tutelage, the Espanola bench boss aims to see his charges continue their advancement.
Here’s a look at the latest NOJHL team season preview, which today features the Espanola Express.
NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2019-20 season?
DAVE CLANCY: Going into the season we look to build off the strides made last season, on and off the ice.
NOJHL: Give us your thoughts on the club as you near the start of the year.
DC: We are going to be a hard-working team, who comes to the rink every night thriving to compete to win hockey games and being good ambassadors to the Express fan base.
NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you look to be play a pivotal role on the club in 2019-20?
DC: Joel Rainville in his second season. He is looking to build off a successful rookie campaign. The 18-year-old goaltender from Sturgeon Falls was third overall in the league last season in minutes played at over 2,100. Meanwhile, Matias Salem is going to be a leader on and off the ice. He helped anchor the defensive corps and led the blueline in goals (8), assists (18) and points (26).
NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you expect to perform well in the league?
DC: Nicholas Faught led the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves in scoring last season with 11 goals and 14 assists. He’ll add offence to our lineup. A.J. Favot has a nice skill set that will compliment our backend while Robert Brisson had successful run with the North Bay Midgets as they won the GNML and will compliment Favot with his skill set.
NOJHL: The Express boasted an eight-win improvement last season over the year before. How do you look to continue building that winning culture?
DC: In our second year as a rebuild, we look to continue to build our off-ice structure in such areas as our scouting staff, community involvement, education and billet coordinators so that our players have a positive atmosphere to succeed. As an organization, we look for players with good character and who are looking to move on in the game of hockey.
NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season?
DC: Like any other team is first build on some of our success last season and to make the playoffs and ultimately a championship.
NOJHL: What are one or two highlights in your time with the team?
DC: Last year helping our players advance such as Chase Lammi with an NCAA D1 Commitment to St. Lawrence and Bret McInall with a U-Sports commitment to Laurentian. It’s also great to work in a town with strong fan and community support.
NOJHL: Any closing comments to finish things up?
DC: We are happy to be back in our second year in Espanola. We would like to thank the previous ownership group for their efforts and are looking forward to working with a new ownership group.