With a new head coach, an earlier training camp and an abundance of spots left open by graduating players, there’s no doubt the Muskie hockey team will bolster a new look this season.
And with that new look, the black-and-gold are hoping for a sharp turnaround that saw them bounced in the NorWOSSA semi-final by Sioux Lookout last season.
That abrupt exit persuaded the coaching staff to fast-forward training camp to last week, taking advantage of the ice available at Memorial Arena.
The team also has incorporated a two-month conditioning program for the players until they hit the ice in late October. The Muskies will see their first exhibition action Nov. 14-15 in Warroad, then open the NorWOSSA campaign here Nov. 18 against the Dryden Eagles.
But with the loss of 10 veterans, including both starting goalies in Jim Teeple and Blaine DeGagne, rookie head coach Glen Edwards admitted some question marks lie ahead.
“We are quite optimistic but we have a big question mark with a couple of Bantam kids in goal," he said. ”But I feel Adrian Indian and [Mike] Glueheisen kid can do the job for us.
“We’re going to stress the [defensive] systems from last year," he added. "Talent can still score in a defensive system.”
And the Muskies appear to have enough offensive talent up front, especially with the addition of centre Aaron Grynol (who spent last season playing Bantam in Kenora), along with the likes of returning veterans Frank Redford, Dale Jerry, and Chuck Arpin.
But with the loss of Trevor Armstrong, Greg Ward, Keith Ellwood, and Robbie Crowe, the pressure definitely will be on some of the younger players to fill that goal-scoring void.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of forwards but we’re going to need some production from our younger wingers," Edwards stressed. "We have a bit of speed and size up front so we’ll try to play an up-tempo, high-speed game.”
On defence, the Muskies again will boast the services of David Bond, Jon Lloyd and Shane Beazley. But with the loss of veteran blueliners Justin Grouette and Nathan Kempf, the team is in need of a couple of defenceman to fill the fifth and sixth spots.
If they can fill those, Edwards noted they may move Bond up to forward, where he played at times at the end of last season.
“You always have to consider what you got so we’re going to see how the year goes, and how much [ice] time the fourth line will see,” he added.