While summer tempeartures continued to soar outside the arena, Uxbridge’s boys of winter, the Bruins were back in action last weekend, after the team opened training camp in Stouffville preparing for the 39th season of Junior ‘C’ hockey in the community.
With 40 skaters and six goaltenders in training camp vying for roster spots, difficult choices are looming for Head Coach Geoff Hodgkinson and the rest of the Bruins’ staff.
“The calibre of play has gotten better and better over these first three days,” Hodgkinson told The Standard during Friday night’s exhibition opener in Stouffville, a 3-2 loss to the Schomberg Cougars that saw the Bruins have several great scoring chances turned aside in the final 10 minutes.
“I feel we, as a staff, have really done our homework and have put people in positions to make our decisions very tough over the next three weeks. We know that we’ll have to let some good players go.”
Following the game on Friday, night the Bruins took another rookie-heavy line-up to Port Hope on Saturday night, where they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Panthers in overtime.
Entering his third season behind the bench for the team he captained to the provincial semi-finals in his final year as a player, Hodgkinson knows first-hand how valuable veteran leadership can be. He added that he hopes that with the team having had their season ended in three straight COJHL finals, that desire to bring a Cougar Cup championship to Uxbridge for the first time since 2009 will motivate an experienced core of Bruins.
“Hopefully that desire to win a championship is the driving force behind them. We have five really strong 21-year-olds, but unfortunately can only take four of them,” said Hodgkinson.
Establishing depth and having the right mix of players is the main objective for the Bruins’ staff as they continue training camp in Stouffville this week, with a tilt against the Alliston Hornets at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28.
“I’m confident we’ll be deeper this year. One of the things we need is players that can play in every situation. You want the right mix of players and not have your top powerplay guys to also be your top penalty killers,” added Hodgkinson. “Character is the toughest part to figure out and knowing who will buy into that Bruins’ way of playing, who will do everything inside and out that you ask for.”