NOJHL preseason preview: Rayside-Balfour Canadians

SUDBURY, Ont. – Following a run to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League finals last season, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians have had a shuffle in the front office as well as changes to the coaching staff as they prepare to embark on the 2018-19 campaign.

Brought on board to oversee hockey operations is Tim Armstrong while veteran bench boss Dan Cuomo returns to the Sudbury area after a lengthy stint coaching in Europe to serve as the club’s new head coach where he will work alongside Steve Lauzon, who returns for another year on the team’s staff.

With a solid nucleus of returning players alongside some key newcomers to the line-up, the Canadians will look to continue to be among the elite teams in the NOJHL.

The following is the 12th and final league team season preview put together by the NOJHL and it’s 12-member clubs and it features the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.

NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2018-19 season?

TIM ARMSTRONG: The team did very well last year and pushed Cochrane to the brink for the league championship. We expect no less this year. We have a good blend of size, speed and skill. There is a good core of returnees and a nice crop of rookies who boast TELUS Cup National Midget Championship experience. With the short training camp, it may take a few games to gel, but there is no shortage of chemistry and leadership already.

NOJHL: Dan, how different do you think it will be for yourself coaching back home after your time in Europe?

DAN CUOMO: The obvious difference in rink size means a more close-checking style that needs addressing. Speed in necessary at both places however. Having played and coached on both sides of the pond, it should be a fairly smooth transition.

NOJHL: What style of play will you be looking to instill in your players?

D.C.: Speed, aggressive fore-checks and discipline are keys for most teams, especially for us.

NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?

T.A.: Evan Krassey is our leader. Kyle Liinamaa looks to maintain his scoring touch while Noah Serre is a top league penalty kill person in the league. All three are in their final year of junior and all three should continue to produce. Krassey and Liinamaa were both a point-per-game performers on the team last season. They shared the team scoring lead with 51 points each and they produced in the playoffs as well. Serre has played over 100 games in our league and is a solid contributor at both ends of the ice.

NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with heading into the season?

T.A.: Defenceman Joel Mongeon on the back end was the leader for the Sudbury Nickel Caps as they played in the TELUS Cup. He shows high hockey sense and showed well. Forward Escweiller has two years of major junior experience and can be a force. Another forward in Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis just returned from a good camp with Niagara IceDogs. He too was in the TELUS with Sudbury and he was their captain. We are looking for good goal production from him.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season and beyond?

T.A.: Our goal is to get to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup. Last year’s vets are burning from last year’s final. We think we have provided them the support they will need to get the job done this year.

NOJHL: Any other thoughts or comments you’d like to provide to finish things off?

T.A.: We have 10 returnees who were part of the long playoff run last season, four new players from the Sudbury Nickel Caps and five from leagues in southern Ontario. We had a late start, which put restrictions on our training camp. We were also challenged with the fact that two-thirds of the players were at OHL and QMJHL camps. However, our more than capable coaching staff is confident that we will be game ready for the start of the season. We are in it for the long haul and we want to win the last game of the year.