NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013
2013-14 Team Previews: Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
SUDBURY – With the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season now underway and the remaining six member clubs gearing up for their first game action of the campaign Friday, team-by-team previews on each squad continue to be provided.
The third club notes package is on the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
Coming off a solid 2012-13 season in which they posted an overall record of 25-18-2-3, the Gold Miners are looking to continue building on that success.
Led by NOJHL coach of the year Marc Lafleur, Kirkland Lake maintained their winning ways in exhibition play taking a pair of contests in a two-game home-and-home set vs. Abitibi by scores of 5-2 on Aug. 24 and 3-2 in double overtime the following night.
“I am looking forward to building on what this team did last year,” stated the team’s bench boss. “We have added what we believe to be some very solid pieces to the good crop of returning players we had last season.”
Assistant coach Tom Sinclair also likes what the squad will have to offer.
“I am excited about our team this season. We will have a lot of speed in the line-up with a lot of depth that is required to compete at this level.”
A solid defensive system put in place by Lafleur saw the Gold Miners allow the third fewest goals against in the league last season at 145 as they ended up in fourth place overall in the standings.
Much of the success for that stingy play could be attributed to NOJHL first team all-star Jeremy Picard-Fiset, who is back for another campaign.
The 1994-born Barraute, Que., product also contributed offensively for Kirkland Lake notching six goals and adding 21 assists.
“Jeremy is an extremely skilled and mobile puck-moving defenceman,” offered Gold Miners director of hockey operations Dave Bolger. “We will be looking for big things from Jeremy as he looks to build on the all-star season he had last year.”
A mid-season acquisition by the club last year in blueliner Dan Morin also paid dividends for the Miners as the 20-year-old Ignace, Ont., native returns for his final stint in junior hockey.
The six-foot-three-inch, 215-pound rearguard averaged a point-per-game after being picked up from the Dryden Ice Dogs (SIJHL) accumulating three tallies and 14 helpers in 17 outings.
“Dan is a big, tough rugged defenceman who makes life difficult for opposing players in our end,” stated Bolger. “In addition to that he also contributed a point-per-game and has arrived this season in outstanding shape and looks poised to have a great year.”
Offensively the Gold Miners will look to 1994-born forward Steven Babin to once put up solid numbers for the club.
Babin topped both the team and the entire NOJHL in power play goals in 2012-13 with 15 as part of his 22-goal, 17-assist performance in just 38 games.
Bolger sees plenty of positives in Babin’s game.
“Steven is an extremely skilled player at both ends of the ice with a knack at finding the back of the net. We are looking forward to Steven contributing big numbers this season as a 19-year-old.”
Among the new skaters joining Kirkland Lake’s roster this season are a pair of Michigan natives in Austin Rust and Jacob Zarzycki.
Both forwards are in their final year of Jr. eligibility and come in after putting up big numbers with the Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
Rust racked up 69 points, including 32 markers, in 48 games while Zarzycki was a 40-goal man while also dishing out 27 assists.
Providing insight on Rust, the Gold Miners director of hockey ops says; “We are looking forward to Austin becoming a team leader this season, his first in the NOJHL. He is a slick skating center with great vision who we anticipate being a point producer as well as a solid two-way player.”
Bolger likes the upside of Zarzycki, who was linemates with Rust in Rochester, as well.
“We are extremely pleased to have Jacob join us this season. He is a smaller player that skates extremely well and has outstanding offensive abilities and we fully expect Jacob to be a crowd favorite this season.”
Assessing the overall picture, Bolger feels the organization has done a solid job building this year’s edition of the Gold Miners.
“I am very pleased with the work that Marc Lafleur and Tom Sinclair did in the off-season with recruiting as I feel that these two have assembled a very fast and skilled team with good depth.”
He also summarized; “We have added a little size, but the obvious addition appears to be the team speed and overall skill level. With Marc and Tom we will have a team that is very well coached and ready to compete every night.”
“I’m personally looking forward to this season and I believe the fans in Kirkland Lake will be treated to some great hockey at The Joe.”
The Gold Miners open up regular season action at home with home games Friday vs. Espanola and Saturday against Sudbury. Game time each night is set for 7:30 p.m.