Missing the playoffs last year was a tough pill to swallow for the Gananoque Junior C Islanders, but this year, the team hopes to make the cut.
Coach Brian Begbie’s club finished in fifth place in the Tod Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League last year, just one point behind the Port Hope Panthers.
“Missing the playoffs really hurt,” said Begbie, who is back for a second season behind the Islanders bench.
Begbie says the team learned a number of valuable lessons from mistakes last year that they don’t plan on repeating.
“This year, we’re hoping to be fast, we’re hoping to be smart, we’re hoping to be disciplined and we’re hoping to be successful,” added Begbie, who enjoyed tremendous success as a coach in Kingston minor hockey.
“Our job is to make sure our kids have a chance to develop and grow as individuals. We want them to be a part of the community and have fun playing this great game.”
Begbie continued: “I like what I saw in the exhibition. We held our own against Napanee, the defending Ontario champions. We beat them 5-2 and lost 2-1 in overtime.
“That showed me that we’re headed in the right direction and were going to have a competitive club.”
The Islanders’ strength is between the pipes with veteran goaltender Jeremy Piazzi and rookie Brandon Heaslip, a graduate of the Greater-Kingston Midget hockey program.
“I think we’re going to do a lot better this season,” said Piazzi, a 20-year-old Kingston native who attends Queen’s University.
“Coach Begbie and our management team of Brandon Nadeau, Randy Casford, Jeff McEwen and Tom Dickson have done a great job in recruiting some new blood,” Piazzi said.
“The Tod Division is one of the best in the province, but I think we have enough talent to make the playoffs this year. I look forward to the season ahead.”
The Islanders hope to get off to a good start with two games this weekend at the Lou Jeffries Arena. On Saturday at 5 p.m., they host the Georgina Ice. On Sunday night, they’ll face off against the Picton Pirates at 7 p.m.
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