A large contingent of returning players are fueling the optimism of Port Perry MoJacks head coach Clair Cornish as the local Junior ‘C’ hockey team prepares for the upcoming 2015-16 COJHL season.
A total of 48 players were part of the action over the weekend looking to impress Cornish and his staff, as the MoJacks opened training camp with an off-ice training session, followed by a pair of spirited sessions on the ice at Campus Ice Centre in Oshawa.
The MoJacks hit the ice at Scugog Arena on Thursday, Sept. 3, for an exhibition encounter with the Little Britain Merchants at 8 p.m. Earlier in the week, the MoJacks traveled to Lindsay on Tuesday, Sept. 1 (after The Standard’s press deadline) to open their pre-season schedule against the Merchants.
Although the team will have some key spots to fill due to some players moving on to higher levels of junior hockey, Cornish is confident in the MoJacks’ returning players, as well as a solid crop of newcomers, will help to keep the team competitive in the COJHL this season.
“We’re happy with our turnout,” Cornish told The Standard. “One of the things we’re looking to do this year is get quicker, and we have a great group to achieve that goal. The pace seems to get better every year.
Among the players departing the team this year are defenceman Liam Schweda, a Port Perry Minor Hockey product now with the Junior ‘A’ Lindsay Muskies, as well as forwards Kyle Powell and Cole Murray. However, Cornish and his staff have been hard at work scouting to try and bolster the team’s line-up.
“Players moving on is a part of junior hockey. We’ve done a good job of recruiting, and hope that we can add some quality players to our program. We’ve been out watching games since February to try and identify those that will fit with the MoJacks.”
With a highly-regarded group of prospects vying for spots on the team, Cornish expects fierce competition as training camp wears on, including a trip to Alliston next weekend for the annual Hornets Pre-Season Tournament.
“We should have a good battle in net with a number of really good goalies that will all get a good look to show what they can do,” added Cornish. “In front of them, we’ve brought in a lot of quality players, including some Midget ‘AAA’ players that have had a lot of success in their minor hockey careers.”
However, Cornish admits that the fate of the team ultimately lies with its core of returning players, including dynamic forwards Lucas Clark, Jeff St. Pierre, Graham Lamers, Kyle Schweda, Konrad Piorkowski and captain Lucas Berkers, who will once again be called upon to anchor Port Perry’s defence.
“We have a lot of returning guys and good systems in place. What we will really need is big years out of those returning players that have now played in this league for multiple seasons and have seen what it takes to be successful at this level.”