SUDBURY, Ont. – Set to make their 2019-20 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season debut on Friday night at home, the Hearst Lumberjacks will raise the NOJHL championship banner they won last season where it will be hoisted for display at Claude Larose Arena.
Set to commence just their third campaign in Hearst, the defending champs begin their quest to try and repeat in the ever-competitive NOJHL, especially in the league’s East Division where the Lumberjacks narrowing claimed the divisional crown as well.
Under head coach and general manager Marc Lafluer, he led his team to their initial first place finish in the NOJHL East last season with a 33-16-3-1 record as well as a 12-6 mark in the postseason en route to the title.
Buoyed by optimism and well supported by the hometown Hearst faithful, the club led the NOJHL in playoff attendance in their journey to the league crown and drew over 28,000 fans throughout last season and will look for that continued support in 2019-20.
The final NOJHL team 2019-20 season preview features the defending NOJHL champions, the Hearst Lumberjacks.
NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2019-20 season?
MARC LAFLEUR: To play consistent, honest hockey every single night and to compete in the very tough East Division.
NOJHL: Give us your thoughts on the club as you near the start of another campaign.
ML: The players seem eager to get the regular season started, but understand as well that there is a big gap from where we are at and where we need to be.
NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players that you look for to play a pivotal role on the club?
ML: Captains Max Griffioen and Jake Desando who had great offensive outputs last year will be expected to lead our team in many different areas this year. Both finished in the Top 5 in league scoring in 2018-19 with Desando ending up third in the NOJHL with 75 points, including 30 goals, while Griffioen was fourth overall with 72 points. He also scored 29 times for us.
NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you expect to perform well in the league?
ML: Max Argetsinger is an 18-year-old defenceman and will be expected to log a lot of minutes for us. He played high school hockey the last three seasons in his hometown of Eden Prairie, Minn. Up front, Dominic Dumas will be a key part on the offensive side. Dumas is a 20-year-old and played in the NAHL last year. Prior to that he played in both the OJHL and BCHL.
NOJHL: Talk about the parity in the league, especially in the NOJHL East where the divisional standings were so tight in the race for top spot last season.
ML: The closeness of the division has enabled our great hockey community to be exposed to great fast-paced hockey that the fans have come to enjoy and make the Lumberjacks the talk of the town.
NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season?
ML: To simply come out and be competitive and improve with every game and practice. The league isn’t won in September, but it is important to understand that the points early in the season can have a huge impact in the standings at year’s end.
NOJHL: What are one or two highlights for you, or for the community itself, in winning the NOJHL championship in 2018-19?
ML: The whole year was one big highlight. How the community came to embrace the team and players, and in return the players winning the league championship for our fans, was surreal.