Senior hockey returns to the arenas in Eastern Newfoundland on Friday with 2 games scheduled in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League. The season kicks off at 7:30 PM Friday evening, October 29th with the Southern Shore Puglisevich Senior Breakers playing host to the Clarenville Ford Caribous at the Ken Williams Memorial Arena. At the Jack Byrne Arena, the St. John’s Senior Caps open their season hosting the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars. With the Northeast Senior Eagle taking the 2021- 2022 season off the Caps will be calling the Jack Byrne Arena home this season. In addition to the four teams playing Friday evening the Conception Bay Blues are also back for another season. On Saturday in Harbour Grace the Blues will see their first action when they visit the CeeBees. Meanwhile, the Caribous play host to the Breakers in the second half of their home and home series Saturday.
The senior league is returning to the Avalon East brand after a number of years as the East Coast Senior Hockey League. The return honors the long history of the Avalon East Senior Hockey League and the many Hall of Fame players who played in the league over its illustrious 54 season history. Adding to the excitement this season is the certainty around Herder competition in the spring. At the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Annual General Meeting in June 2021 a plan was approved to provide certainty around Herder competition that provides a path to the Herder for all senior hockey teams in the province. The Avalon East champion representing the only Senior A league in the province will face the Provincial Senior B champion in Herder competition. The Senior B champion will be allowed to select strengthening players to ensure a competitive Herder.
The Southern Shore Puglisevich Senior Breakers welcome back former St. John’s Icecap Josh Lunden as head coach. Former Herder Champion goaltender, Mark Yetman, is back between the pipes, with veteran defensemen Daniel Cadigan and Daniel Dalton leading the way. Up front, the Breakers have a lot of experience led by Team Captain Jeremy Nicholas along with veterans Michael Chafe and Peter Kavanagh. Supporting the veteran forwards are graduating junior players Kieran O'Driscoll and AJ Doyle. In looking ahead to the new season General Manager Ian Sullivan says “This is a year of unfinished business for the Breakers who held a record of 17-0-1 heading into the 2020 playoffs before the COVID19 pandemic shut down hockey.” Expect the Breakers to be fighting for first place throughout the season.
The St. John’s Senior Caps have a new but familiar face back behind the bench with Scott Bray as head coach. Scott is being assisted by Pat O’Keefe and former head coach Wally Bray. Back between the pipes is Kyle Downer supported by a strong defensive core lead by Pat O'Keefe Junior and Pat Parfrey. Up front Kyle McGrath is coming off a strong showing at the Growlers training camp and is joined by senior hockey veterans Terry Ryan and Kyle McGuirk. According to Team President Seamus O’Keefe “After a successful 2019/20 season was cut short due to the Covid pandemic, the Senior Caps enter this year with a sense of unfinished business that they hope to take care of at their new home in the Jack Byrne Arena.” The Caps should finish near the top in the standings come playoff time.
The Clarenville Ford Caribous will have former team Captain Dustin Russell back behind the bench bringing a wealth of experience to the team. Competition for the starting goaltender job is stiff with four excellent goalies in camp. Veteran defenseman Justin Pender returns to lead the ‘Bous defence but will be unavailable early in the season. The Reid brothers, Kevin and Mason, along with veteran Chad Earle will lead the way up front with the addition of Connor Donaghey in a trade from the St. John’s Caps. Clarenville Ford Caribous General Manager and Assistant Coach Ivan Hapgood feels “the team will be challenged from the start due to the number of veterans that have retired and others that will not be available early in the season but by Christmas it will all come together and the Caribous expect to be in the mix again come playoff time.”
The Conception Bay Blues head into the 2021-22 season with head coach Jonathan Kavanagh behind the bench. On the ice, joining high scoring forwards Brandon Street, Kyle Tibbo and Lucas Lush will be an impressive group of rookies including Tyler Wall, Ryan Ricketts and Blake Fudge. While the addition of Adam Nolan, James O’Brien and Klay Kachur will help secure the Blues back end. In goal, the Blues will rely on an experienced tandem of Matthew Jenkins and Mitch Puddester. Head coach Jonathan Kavanagh says the team is reloaded and ready to go. “Last season didn't go as well as planned, based on what we have been building over the last few years, but the talented crop of rookies has really energized our returning players." Expect a bounce back season for the Blues.
The Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBees Stars expect significant improvement this season with the addition of Jordan Escott in a trade with the St. John’s Caps. Escott led the league in scoring the last season and will join the team in a leadership role as Captain. Brian Cranford is back for his second season as head coach. In goal Riley Acreman and Owen Petten will share the duties behind an improved defense led by multiple Herder champ Nick Lidstrom. Up front Escott will get help from veterans Ryan Delaney and Brett Shute. The CeeBees expect to be in the race for a playoff spot and with the additions up front and on defense can do some damage if they make the playoffs.
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