Three Shield players are venturing north
Gravenhurst - After losing his championship head coach Dallyn Telford to new ventures farther south in Ontario, Gravenhurst Shield general manager and owner Gord Carey is suffering some losses, this time to the north.
The Elliot Lake Bobcats of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League have reportedly signed away three of the cogs in the South Muskoka Shield’s wheels including goalie Tanner Swift and forward Colby Jordan of Huntsville and forward Mat White of Washago.
“It’s kind of a bummer,” Carey said frankly. “I’m discouraged a bit, but we’ll plug away and be fine.”
“I just wasn’t anticipating building like we did seven years ago (when the Greater Metro Hockey League Junior A club was formed),” he added. “My main priority right now would still have to be getting someone behind that bench.”
Swift was a big part of the team’s championship run that ended in the semifinal rounds, tying for first in the GMHL in wins at 17 during the regular season and placing fourth in goals-against average with a steady 3.13. Iain Bass is the lone returning Shield goalie in 2013, and is entering his final year of eligibility.
The club also lost five players through age limits, including Gravenhurst’s Dylan Sontag, whose 502 points is an all-time GMHL career record. Defenceman Adam MacBeth, goalie Eric Pye, forwards Kyle Blohm and Stanislav Nikonov have also hit their age limits of 21, leaving at least eight crucial holes to fill now for Carey.
The annual general managers meetings are coming up in mid-May and Carey said he still anticipates being able to fill the head coach spot by then. If not, “I’m prepared to move ahead and will have a plan in place.”
The meetings will also include the GMHL draft, in which every team will have 10 picks. Carey said at one point the club had been fairly successful in the draft, but the last few years has seen some changes to the drafting system and the club has been unable to sign any of its picks in two years straight.
What does loom brightly for the club right now, however, is that Carey said he’s had good contacts with upcoming players or free agents who are keen on coming to the Shield. He has also been aggressive overseas already this season.
“We’re a strong organization and that’s really helped us build a strong reputation in Europe right now,” he said. “A big part of that was Nik (Nikita Jevpalovs).”
Jevpalovs played for the Shield two seasons ago, earning rookie of the year honours. The Latvian native is headed for the 2012 National Hockey League (NHL) draft in late June after making a huge splash during the 2012 Under-18 World Junior Championships in Calgary. He returned to play in Latvia this past season and a great deal of his game is attributed to the lessons learned with the Shield and in the GMHL.
“Once we figure out the coaching situation things will work out fine,” Carey said. “I just wasn’t expecting to be filling 10 roster spots.”