In spite of losses during pre-season, Jr. C. team is optimistic about regular season
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times The Subaru of Orillia Terriers will have a lot of new faces in their lineup when they kick off their Provincial Jr. C season Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Rotary Place against the Schomberg Cougars. The team lost all three of its exhibition games and all three games at a pre-season tourney in Alliston but hope springs eternal as the regular season begins.
In an era of analytics, some would say hockey is a numbers game. Right now, the numbers aren't adding up particularly well for the Subaru of Orillia Terriers.
Over the weekend, the local Jr. C squad was outscored 20-0 and went 0-3 at the 10th annual Alliston Hornets Pre-Season Tournament. The local team was also winless in its three pre-season games. But as the team gets ready for its home opener Friday night, the most troubling number for the Terriers may be the number of players on the bench.
For various reasons -- work commitments, illness and other issues -- the Terriers have had just 12 skaters for most of their games to date. During the first game of the tournament in Alliston, veteran forward Corey Miller injured his shoulder and was out of the lineup for the rest of the tourney.
"We struggled with numbers and just didn't have a lot of kids," said first-year Terriers coach and general manager Keith Penna. "But for the amount of kids we had, I actually thought we played well."
After being outclassed 10-0 by Port Perry in the tournament-opening game, the Terriers rebounded in their second contest and, despite being shorthanded, went toe-to-toe with the Schomberg Cougars. "Going into the third period, Schomberg was up 2-0, but we ran out of gas in the third," said Penna, whose team lost 4-0.
Just two hours later, the Terriers clashed with rival Penetang, who had crushed the Terriers 15-0 just days earlier in the team's final pre-season contest. Once again, the Terriers played with heart and went stride for stride with the Kings, who had the luxury of a deep bench. However, a controversial call turned the tide, ultimately, against the Terriers.
Trailing 2-0, the Terriers finally scored their first goal of the tournament only to have the referee rule that the buzzer to end the second period had sounded first. "So, instead of going into the third down 2-1, it was 2-0," lamented Penna.
In the third, a couple of questionable calls led to a key Penetang power-play goal and when Penna questioned the referee, the first-year bench boss was ejected. He was assessed a two-game suspension, which he is appealing. "There was no swearing or screaming - nothing that warranted me being ejected and suspended," said Penna.
Despite the losses and frustration, Penna is upbeat and confident about the new season set to dawn. "Take the game against Penetang," said Penna. "They had pasted us the last time we played and even though we had just 12 kids (and Matt Vince and rookie Tyler Thomas played through injuries), it was a 2-0 game going into the third. I was excited about that."
He was also excited about the team's goaltending. He said both Morgan Penwell and Kurtis Stacey were "awesome." The coach said the netminding duo played "better than expected this early in the season. They got a lot of work. Honestly, I was really happy with them and the rest of the team was happy with the way they played."
Penna is also confident that he and team president Mike Duprey will be successful in signing players this week to ensure the team is at full strength when the season starts. While he didn't want to provide names until papers were signed, he hinted a few former players are expected to return. On top of that, they have their sights set on a handful of other players who were late cuts by other junior teams.
"I'm feeling really good and the kids are excited about the season," said Penna. "Honestly, we just need more bodies. I really believe we are going to be a sleeper this year. The kids are really dedicated to the team, to Orillia ... they're great kids and I'm excited to be coaching these kids."
The Terriers kick off the 2017-18 regular season Friday night when they host Schomberg in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Rotary Place. Orillia's first three games are at home: On Saturday night at 7:30, the Terriers will welcome reigning league champion Alliston, which won their own tournament on the weekend, and on Sept. 20, the Terriers will host Stayner in an 8 p.m. contest at Rotary Place.
TERRIER TALES: Joey Moir, who played for the Terriers two years ago, played for Orillia during the Alliston tournament. Miller is questionable to start the season due to his shoulder injury. Penna said he expects Miller along with veterans Matt Vince, Konnor Blimke and Ben Garrett to be among the team's leaders this year.