NOJHL team preseason preview: French River Rapids

SUDBURY, Ont. – The French River Rapids will feature a new look this season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

French River secured a new ownership group in the off-season and with that came changes to its off-ice operations as well as to its coaching staff.

Now heading up the Rapids as team president and director is Paul Frustaglio while long-time hockey man Sherry Bassin has joined organization as their director of hockey operations and former NHLer Ken Strong will guide the club behind the bench as head coach.

Wins were hard to come by for French River in their first two years in the league, but optimism is high for the new group in Noelville as they enter the upcoming campaign.

Here’s a look at the ninth of 12 NOJHL team preseason previews, which features the French River Rapids.

Head Coach – Ken Strong
Director of Hockey Operations – Sherry Bassin

NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2017-18 season?

PAUL FRUSTAGLIO: We are focused on building a young, strong team with good character and hockey skill. Making the playoffs is a goal that we believe is within our reach if the players come focused and are determined to get better.

NOJHL: What have you seen from your club during training camp and preseason play?

PF: The boys came to camp determined to erase the past two seasons. Our skates have had a high-tempo pace and I believe we saw that in our exhibition games.

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

PF: Eric Paquette is back for his third year and was the first Rapids player ever signed. He’s a 20-year-old defenceman who has 91 NOJHL games under his belt, so we expect a ton of leadership from him. Jordan Piccard came to the Rapids midway through last season and became a scoring force to finish the year. He had 24 points in 30 games with us and I expect him to continue where he left off.

NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with early on?

PF: Our staff is very pleased with the new defencemen and goaltenders we have brought in. We expect to be much improved in our own end. Defensemen Connor Loft and Stephen Calisti came from the GTHL where they both led their respective midget AAA teams, the Mississauga Reps and Toronto Nats. Goalkeeper Spencer Eschyschyn came to us in a trade from the English River Miners (SIJHL) where he was invited to tryout out for Team Canada West.

NOJHL: How do you feel things have progressed early in your tenure with the organization?

PF: I am pretty excited to be here. The French River community and our volunteers are very special people. The commitment to our team is second to none. I am also lucky to have a great staff here with Sherry Bassin, Chris McDougall and Jason Cuff.

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

PF: I am a big believer in how you finish and not how you start. Having said that, we’re focused on development and getting our players ready to progress to the next level. As long as we get better each month and make the playoffs our goals will be achieved.

NOJHL: Do you have any final thoughts on your organization?

PF: On behalf of the whole staff here, we are excited to get the new hockey season started. We are focused and working hard to create a winning tradition in French River. This is a great league and it keeps on getting better each year.

Preseason results
Aug. 29 vs. Espanola (4-2 Win)
Aug. 30 vs. Powassan (8-4 Loss)
Aug. 31 @ Espanola (3-2 Loss)
Sept. 1 @ Powassan (6-3 Loss)

Twitter: @RapidsNOJHL
Facebook: /groups/FRRapidsFanClub