NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013
Here come the Rivermen: Jr. A hockey returns to Espanola tonight
ESPANOLA – After a decade’s absence, Jr. A play in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League returns to Espanola tonight as the Espanola Rivermen take to the ice in their first home game in franchise history as they host the Sudbury Nickel Barons at 7:30 p.m.
Espanola has not had a NOJHL team since the 2002-03 campaign when the then Screaming Eagles competed in the league.
Looking back in time Espanola was in fact an original member of the NOJHL in the league’s first year of operation, which was 1962-63.
That season was a banner one for the organization as the Espanola Eagles went on to capture the league championship led by head coach Red McCarthy and scoring title winner Ron Allain.
Moving forward to the present the newly-minted Espanola squad, that is privately owned and funded, joined the league in the off-season relocating from North Bay where the club headed by Tim Clayden, Randy Blake and coached by Tom McCarthy, went on to win the NOJHL crown in 2012-13.
The Rivermen have played all of their first six games of this season on the road in preparation for tonight’s opener and went a very respectable 4-2 overall in those outings.
Helping lead the way offensively for Espanola has been skilled forward Brennen Dubchak, who heads into action tonight tied for the league scoring lead with 10 points.
“We are lucky to have Brennen back with us this season and in final year of eligibility,” offered Rivermen general manager Randy Blake.
“The kid plays in all situations and is playing an important role helping our younger players this season as we move along,” he commented on the Kenora, Ont., product.
Another veteran forward leading the way is Brandon Janke, who is presently second in team scoring and in the top 10 in the NOJHL with eight points.
“Brandon is great in our dressing room, said the Rivermen GM. “He’s well-liked by all in the organization. Every season he has become stronger and better and we look forward to this being his best year yet before he heads off to college.”
Corbin Bean is another skater on the squad who has impressed having picked up seven points already, including two goals, which were both game-winners.
“Corbin is a big part of our club and is possibly the most underrated player in all of the NOJHL, stated Blake. “This should be his breakout year in junior hockey and his quiet leadership has already helped show our young team the way early this season.
Among those helping anchor the team’s defensive corps have been Joe Eichelmeier along with newcomer Nathan Campbell.
In net rookies Griffin Strain and Alex Chandler have been solid early on.
Griffin has seen the bulk of the work playing five games and picking up three wins while Chandler posted a shutout in his one appearance to date.
Club vice-president Dean Pauli is pleased with the efforts that have been made on and off the ice heading into the home opener.
“A lot of work has gone into this organization, behind the scenes, that many people do not see or realize. The Town of Espanola and Regional Recreation Complex staff are to be commended for their efforts to help make the transition as smooth as it has been for our hockey club to begin operations this season here in Espanola.”
Espanola team president and director of operations Tim Clayden is also excited to see the club’s first home game ready to be played.
“The run for the roses this spring is a long way away just yet, but it does look like our group has somehow managed to at least pull it together enough to ice a competitive team,” stated Clayden.
“We like our make-up already this season and we have seemingly surrounded our organization once again with young men of very good character.
“It won’t be an easy regular season, but Coach McCarthy has more tools to work with this year than ever before and there’s a feeling that his comrade “Red McCarthy” has some magic left in the rink here in Espanola to share,” added the team president.
“Ring the bell; were ready to get started.”