CIHL ready to set sail

The new Ontario-based, junior hockey league that detractors said would never hit the ice is less than three weeks away from the start of the 2014-2015 regular season.

With four teams in northern Ontario and four more from the southern area of the province, the Canadian International Hockey League is ready and set to go with a regular-season schedule to begin during the first week of October.

“Being new and having only been in the works for less than seven months, we are ecstatic to say that we have eight teams ready to play,” said CIHL founder and president Tim Clayden, who also owns the Espanola Rivermen, formerly of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

“We have had to overcome numerous bumps along the way and we know there will be more bumps ahead,” Clayden said evenly. “But we as a league and our member teams are prepared and ready for what lies ahead. We have good people in place with all eight of our teams and we have good people on our executive who know their way around the game.”

Clayden’s Espanola entry — which led the NOJHL in attendance in 2013-2014 — along with the Sault Ste. Marie-based Batchewana Attack, Sudbury Royals and St. Charles Spirit will comprise the North Division of the CIHL.

Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Collingwood Ice, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and Toronto Jr. Hockey Academy will make up the South Division.

What stands out about the CIHL is the number of coaches who have played the game at a high level, namely the Ontario Hockey League and the National Hockey League.

For instance, three grads of the OHL who went on to lengthy playing careers in the NHL, have been hired to coach teams in the new CIHL.

Combined, Milton’s Dennis Maruk, Batchewana’s Denny Lambert and Tom McCarthy of Espanola played in more than 1,900 NHL games.

Now, as coaches, Maruk, Lambert and McCarthy are just three individuals directly involved with the CIHL who give it big-time credibility.

The well-liked, well-respected Lambert joins the Attack following an 11-year association with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds — three seasons as a player, five as an assistant coach and three more as head coach.

The 44-year old Lambert will be assisted by 26-year old Trevor Solomon, who is a former OHL defenceman. In fact, Solomon played for the Greyhounds when Lambert was a coach.

A first for the new CIHL

The first-ever exhibition game for the new Canadian International Hockey League was played on Friday night at the Espanola Recreational Complex.

And in front of about 700 fans, the visiting Batchewana Attack blanked the Espanola Rivermen 6-0.

Robert Delury led the Attack with two goals, while Darian Pilon, Drake Pilon, Nate Harris and Sergei Koroshun tallied once apiece.

Grant Syrette, formerly of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, chipped in with three assists for the Attack.

Goalies Stefan Demetz and Jack Hickey shared the shutout for Batchewana.

The Attack will play host to the Rivermen in another exhibition match on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Rankin Arena in Sault Ste. Marie.

September 3 Notes

Here ’n there on September 3:

BIRDS SIGN SICOLY

Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League have signed 1998 birth-year forward Nic Sicoly from the training camp of the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.

The 5-foot-10, 160 pound Sicoly was taken by Guelph from the Toronto Marlboros minor midgets in the fourth round of the 2014 OHL draft.

Prior to moving away from home to play in Toronto in 2013-2014, Sicoly spent the 2012-2013 campaign with the Soo Thunder minor midgets.

BEAVERS ADD FRANK

Blind River Beavers of the NOJHL have added the venerable Frank Arcangeletti as their goalie coach.

“Frank has the ability to break down complex goaltending moves to their simplest form of explanation,” Beavers coach-director of hockey operations Don Gagnon told HockeyNewsNorth.com. “Frank is not only a tremendous teacher but is a student of the game.”

NICK TO DUTCHMEN

Kitchener Dutchmen of the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League looms as the latest stop for 1996 birth-year defenceman Nick Trecroce.

The 5-foot-7, 160 pound Trecroce followed two seasons with the erstwhile major midget Soo North Stars by starting the 2013-2014 campaign with the Smiths Falls Bears of the Central Canada Hockey League and finishing it in the NOJHL with Blind River.

Trecroce, who was a 14th-round pick of the Sudbury Wolves at the 2012 OHL draft, was slated to play for the Batchewana Attack of the new Canadian International Hockey League this season.

But after a strong showing at the recent OHL tryout camp of the Kitchener Rangers, Trecroce was offered a spot with the Dutchmen. The Dutchmen are an affiliate team of the OHL Rangers.

Twin Soo Hockeytown

There will be no shortage of junior hockey teams and players to follow in Sault Ste. Marie come the 2014-2015 season.

On the Canadian side of the International Bridge, the Batchewana Attack of the new Canadian International Hockey League have joined the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League as Ontario-based junior teams.

Then there is the American side of the St. Mary’s River which is home to the Michigan-based Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League and the Soo Firehawks of the Midwest Jr. Hockey League.

With the start of the 2014-2015 season looming for the five Twin Soo junior teams, let’s check in with them.

SOO GREYHOUNDS

Easily the top draw of the five junior teams that are housed within the Twin Soo market, the Greyhounds are coming off a 95-point regular season that ended in the second round of the playoffs in 2013-2014.

To be sure, the Greyhounds will be a major threat again in 2014-2015 with a host of veteran players that include impact standouts led by forwards Sergey Tolchinsky and Jared McCann.

While there is a new face in the Greyhound front office, the coaching staff returns virtually intact with Sheldon Keefe at the helm. Not since Craig Hartsburg was barking out commands from back of the bench have the Hounds had the success that they have reached under Keefe.

What to expect from the Hounds of 2014-2015?

A Traverse City product, first-year starter Brandon Halverson steps into the pressure cooker that is the goal crease and the second-round, National Hockey League draft pick of the New York Rangers will be asked to aptly replace the graduated Matt Murray between the pipes.

How Halverson responds to being the main man will determine whether or not the Greyhounds go shopping for added experience between the pipes.

As is the case with just about any team at the high performance level of hockey, goaltending is the position that most often spells the difference between winning and losing.

Halverson aside, the Greyhounds are certainly well-positioned for another good run in 2014-2015.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS

The no. 1 ranked team in all of Canadian Junior A hockey in 2013-2014, the Thunderbirds went all the way to the NOJHL championship series only to come up a tad short.

Undaunted, Thunderbirds general manager Kevin Cain has rostered another squad that will reach for the top of the NOJHL again in 2014-2015 under coach Jordan Smith.

Seasoned skater Anthony Miller is a forward who should be among the NOJHL scoring leaders as a 20-year old.

A skilled, artful player on the ice, Miller is a team leader and all-around good character kid who has the potential to advance beyond the junior hockey level after this season.

Other returnees who should be among the top two-line forwards are Jaren Bellini and Nic Tassone. Like Miller, Bellini and Tassone are Soo products.

Deep up front and on the blueline as well, the Thunderbirds will promote Brian Kment to the starting goaltending position following the requested trade of Joel Horodjieczyk to another Junior A league.

BATCHEWANA ATTACK

The Soo’s new junior team will play out of Rankin Arena, which is viewed as an ideal venue for Junior A hockey.

Calling the shots as coach of the new Batchewana entry is Denny Lambert, a Soo favourite who needs little introduction as a former Greyhound player and coach and NHL journeyman winger of more than 500 career games.

The likeable Lambert will mix coaching the Attack with a full-time career as a security officer at Essar Steel — and his hiring by the Attack is seen as a definite coup on the part of the local CIHL team.

With more than 15 players already signed including Soo products such as defencemen Cade Nolan, Nick Trecroce, Shane Zorzit and Adam Baggs and forwards Jacob Palmerio, Jason Uhl, Jesse Delavalle, Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon, the Attack figure to have no shortage of followers among area fans.

Erstwhile veteran NOJHL associate coach Dennis Bolton will serve as Batchewana’s general manager.

Batchewana will be part of the inaugural CIHL season and one of four teams in the North Division in addition to the Espanola Rivermen, Sudbury Royals and St. Charles Spirit.

The CIHL will also have four teams in a South Division — Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Collingwood Ice, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and Toronto Jr. Hockey Academy.

SOO EAGLES

Formerly of the NOJHL, now of the NAHL, this will mark the fifth season for the Eagles under the leadership of no-nonsense coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo.

After finishing in first place in the North Division of the NAHL in 2012-2013, the Eagles missed the post-season in 2013-2014 but can return a nest of high-end players in 2014-2015 led by defencemen Michael Caruso and Kristofers Bindulis and forwards Sandis Zolmanis, Nick Belger and Chase Matson.

The Eagles play their home games at venerable Pullar Stadium in downtown Michigan Soo.

SOO FIREHAWKS

Coached by Michigan Soo product Joe Esson, the Firehawks are part of a nine-team MWJHL that plays their games at Big Bear Arena.

Other teams in the MWJHL are Traverse City Hounds, Alpena Flyers, Detroit Fighting Irish, Berkley Bruins, Michigan Ice Dogs, West Michigan Freeze, MC Monarchs and Decatur Blaze.

13 players on the Attack

They are lining up for the Attack.

Batchewana Attack of the new Canadian International Hockey League has received 10 player commitments in the past week, general manager Dennis Bolton has confirmed.

Batchewana now has commitments from 13 players as it prepares to host its main tryout camp at Rankin Arena in Sault Ste. Marie in early September.

The Attack held an initial tryout camp on the weekend that was attended by 28 players.

The most-recent commitments to Batchewana — the Attack will be coached by former National Hockey League winger and Ontario Hockey League coach Denny Lambert — are forwards Jason Uhl, RJ Marshall, Nate Harris, Robert Delury and Brian Stack, defencemen Nick Trecroce, Adam Baggs and Shane Zorzit and goalies Stefan Demetz and Jack Hickey.

Earlier, Batchewana had inked defencemen Cade Nolan and Johan Kling and forward Jacob Palmerio.

Uhl, Trecroce, Baggs, Zorzit, Nolan and Palmerio are all Sault Ste. Marie area products.

Marshall, Harris, Delury, Stack and Hickey are all American-born players.

Demetz is from Italy and Kling hails from Sweden.

CIHL switch

As it stands, the new Canadian International Hockey League will begin the 2014-2015 season with eight teams — four in northern Ontario and four in southern Ontario.

CIHL founder and president Tim Clayden said that the Central Ontario HTI Stars will be replaced by a Toronto entry and that the new league will proceed with eight teams as planned.

Carefully choosing his words on the advice of legal counsel, Clayden said the departure of the Central Ontario franchise from the CIHL is “a personal and sensitive issue.

“At this time, we feel it is best for us to cut ties with owner Jenya Feldman and the Central Ontario HTI Stars,” said Clayden. “It is unfortunate for Jenya as we certainly understand his passion for junior hockey. But to be quite honest, Jenya and his team have no other option now but to join the unsanctioned Greater Metro Hockey League.”

Clayden said the CIHL still has a regular-season schedule in place for eight teams — Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen St. Charles Spirit and Sudbury Royals in the north and Colborne Hawks, Collingwood Ice, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and the yet-to-be-named Toronto team in the south.

The CIHL will begin regular-season play during the first week of October.

Blind River to Northland College

Tim Perks, a 1993 birth-year forward who finished the 2013-2014 season with a flourish for Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, is off to the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks.

It has been confirmed that the 6-foot-3, 185 pound Perks will play for the Division 3, Northland College Lumberjacks effective the upcoming 2014-2015 season.

An Oxford, Michigan product, Perks had 8 goals, 6 assists, 14 points in just 18 games with Blind River after being obtained from the Yarmouth Mariners of the Maritime Jr. Hockey League late in the ’13-14 campaign.

NOJHL to CIHL

Sudbury Royals of the new Canadian International Hockey League have tapped local product Trevor Blanchard to be their head coach.

KB Beals, director of hockey operations for the Royals, has confirmed the hiring of Blanchard, who was born and raised in Sudbury.

The 31-year old Blanchard played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League as a hard-nosed left winger who suited up with Owen Sound and Mississauga before playing 98 games over two terms with his hometown Sudbury Wolves for legendary coach Bert Templeton.

In addition to his on-ice efforts that produced 43 goals and 101 points over parts of four seasons, Blanchard was twice named OHL scholastic-player-of-the-year.

Blanchard later played three seasons at Concordia University and played profesionally in the Scottish Premier League where he was team captain for the Dundalk Bulls.

Academically, Blanchard holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia.

As a coach, Blanchard has experience that includes stops with the Sudbury Nickel Barons of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League as well as the Sudbury Wolves AAA bantams and Nickel City Sons AAA bantams.

He has also coached at Ontario Hockey Federation and Northern Ontario Hockey Association program of excellence camps.

In becoming head coach of the Sudbury entry into the new CIHL, which is an Ontario-based junior league, Blanchard will lead the Royals into what is an eight-team loop effective the upcoming 2014-2015 season.

Joining Sudbury as members of the CIHL for its inaugural 2014-2015 campaign are the Batchewana Attack, Espanola Rivermen, St. Charles Spirit, Central Ontario HTI Stars, Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and Collingwood Ice.

New Collingwood team hires a coach

Owner-general manager Tim Dickieson of the Collingwood Ice of the new Canadian International Hockey League has named Marko Fiser as the team’s first-ever head coach.

Fiser joins the Ice with significant coaching and playing experience with teams and leagues in Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden.

Fiser has been coaching since 2005, most recently for the top-ranked HDK Maribor semi-pro team in the Slovenian Ice Hockey League.

Originally from Slovenia, Fiser has degrees from the University of Ljubljana in physical education and sports and ice hockey coaching.

He also holds the highest level of Slovenia Ice Hockey Federation certification.

Collingwood has made another addition to its coaching staff.

Dickieson has confirmed that the Ice has hired Matthew Treadwell as its goalie and fitness coach.

Treadwell holds an associates degree in science with a major in sports nutrition and fitness management from Morrisville State College of New York.

As a goalie, Treadwell played Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic association hockey while attending Morrisville.

An Ontario-based junior league, membership in the CIHL currently stands at eight teams heading into the inaugural 2014-2015 season.

In addition to Collingwood, other CIHL teams are Central Ontario HTI Stars, Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Milton Battle Arts Cobras, St. Charles Spirit, Greater Sudbury Royals, Espanola Rivermen and Batchewana Attack.

For complete coverage of the CIHL, visit HockeyNewsNorth.com.

Sudbury is 8th team in new CIHL

The new Canadian International Hockey League has added an eighth team — and fourth from Northern Ontario.

Under the ownership of the father-son duo of Dr. Martin Beals and KB Beals, the Greater Sudbury Royals will be based out of the Capreol Community Arena.

The younger Beals, a Sudbury area businessman, said he and his dad want to bring “a level of much-needed entertainment to local hockey fans in the Capreol, Hanmer and Val Caron area.

“We believe the community will have a sense of pride and ownership in the Royals,” Beals added. “Community interaction is important to our agenda and we welcome local businesses and patrons to be a part of it.

“My dad and I would like to say that we are very happy to be part of the founding fathers of the CIHL with president Tim Clayden,” Beals continued.

The elder Beals will serve as president of the Royals and his son will be director of operations.

Meanwhile, the Royals have signed their first two players and both are area products with prior junior experience in the Greater Metro Hockey League. They are 1994 birth-year goalie Jake Mactaggart and 1995 birth-year forward Paul Recollet.

Mactaggart played three seasons of junior in the GMHL while the 6-foot-5, 220 pound Recollet — who answers to the nickname Little Bear — is coming off his first year in the junior ranks.

Mactaggart hails from Sudbury while Recollet is a native of Wahnapitae First Nation.

The Royals become the CIHL’s fourth Northern Ontario-based team joining the Espanola Rivermen, St. Charles Spirit and Sault Ste. Marie-based Batchewana Attack.

Other members of the now-eight-team CIHL are Central Ontario HTI Stars, Colborne Cramahe Hawks, Milton Battle Arts Cobras and Collingwood Ice.