December 1 target start date for the 2020-2021 regular season

Story by Jeff Gard/jgsportsmedia.com

With a good mix of new and returning players, the Port Hope Panthers junior C hockey club is hoping to be back on the ice in the near future.

In late August, the Provincial Junior Hockey League set Dec. 1 as a target start date for the 2020-2021 regular season, subject to government and public health approval as well as Hockey Canada.

“It’s been a different and difficult year with regard to recruiting, having skates for prospects, things of that nature, but there are some really talented hockey players in the area and we’ve been able to recruit many of them and we’re excited about the group that we’re putting together,” said Panthers general manager Alex Guiney.

Alex Guiney: Trenton Golden Hawks photo

Guiney noted the ice is now in at the Jack Burger Sports Complex in Port Hope.

“We’re looking at getting on the ice with the Panthers very soon to see where our group is at and get our coaching staff on the ice,” he remarked. “We’ve been working with our players towards that targeted start date of Dec. 1.”

Potential returning players include Corey Saman, Nick Ainsworth, Jarrett Desormeaux, Carter Clarke, Bryson Kelloway, Zeph Hlapcic, Nolan Stevenson, Drew Clapperton, Brady Darrach, Stefan Lakoseljac and goaltender Conor O’Hare.

Guiney hopes to have a strong goaltending tandem with O’Hare and Cameron Johnston, who was signed during the off-season from the Oshawa Generals midget team.

“We’re excited to add Cameron to our program and to work with him this season,” Guiney stated in a release at the time. “Cameron is a promising young goaltender who moves very well and with his big frame is tough to beat. He’s a dedicated player and a quality person. We’re looking forward to him joining our tandem in Port Hope and watching him develop.”

Another big off-season addition, to help bolster the blue line, for the Panthers was Oz Paziuk of Cobourg. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenceman played for the Clarington Toros last season.

“He gives us some size, some snarl, but he’s got really good small-area puck skills,” Guiney said. “He’s able to pull pucks out of the corner and make a possessed exit. We’re really excited about him this year and the role he’ll be able to take with our hockey club.”

On Monday, it was announced the Panthers had re-acquired forward Will Perley Fry, of Cobourg, from the Campbellford Rebels. He played 15 games for Port Hope last season before the trade to Campbellford.

“We heard that Will might be available this off-season and jumped at the opportunity to bring him back to Port Hope,” Guiney stated. “Will showed last season that he can be a valuable contributor and made an impression on our staff and the players in our dressing room. Everyone was thrilled to hear that he’ll be back and we look forward to him taking the ice for us and what he brings our team and room.”

By no means is the final roster set for the upcoming season.

“We’ll have a couple more signings and trade acquisitions over the next couple weeks as we assemble the final roster that will take the ice hopefully in December for us,” Guiney said.

This past off-season, Guiney also had the task of hiring a new head coach and announced Sept. 1 that the job would be filled by David Miller.

Guiney described Miller as an “extremely qualified candidate” who guided the Clarington Eagles to the playoffs two straight seasons. He’s also a Hockey Canada high performance certified coach and skills facilitator.

“Especially in a year like this where our opportunities are limited to skill development skates, he’s going to be a huge asset,” Guiney said. “Beyond his hockey resume, he’s a teacher by trade full-time so he’s a great communicator with young adults. I think that’s an extraordinary and incredibly important skill to bring to junior hockey, just to be able to communicate why we need things done a certain way, why particular drills and systems and structures are important within our hockey club.”

If the season begins in December, the hope is for a regular-season schedule of 24 games minimum, down from the usual 40. It’s unknown at this time if any fans would be allowed in the arena. 

Guiney noted that while junior hockey teams depend on that support, right now the players and staff just want to return to competition.

“All I can do is ask the people of Northumberland, Ontario and the world to wash their hands, wear their masks, stay safe and hopefully we can get these COVID numbers down to a point where it’s safe to have fans in our building and watch our players play,” he said.

To listen to the full interview with Guiney, who is also the assistant general manager and director of analytics for the Cobourg Cougars, check out: https://jgsportsmedia.com/2020/09/28/audio-interview-with-port-hope-panthers-gm-alex-guiney/

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