NIPAWIN — The 2018 SJHL champion Nipawin Hawks are hoping to keep flying by mixing in veterans from last season’s strong squad (38-15-2-3) with talented newcomers.
Last year, the Hawks posted the SJHL’s best regular season.
“We have 12 guys back and the possibility to see another couple at some point,” said Doug Johnson, the team’s head coach. “This is huge since the older guys bring a level of confidence and swagger along with a knowledge of what it takes to win.”
The head coach is pleased with the shape his players – new and returning – showed up to camp in.
“You can tell the players took their offseason seriously and are excited about the new year,” Johnson said.
The Hawks look to be deep up front. They return five of their top six scorers from a season ago. That group includes top scorer Austen Flaman (19 goals and 44 points) as well as Jordan Simoneau (33 points), Jake Tremblay (33 points), Carson Erhardt (28) and Brodie Girod (26).
To the strong returning forward core, the Hawks add such talented newcomers as Davis Chorney and Burke Simpson. Chorney, a hometown product, is a 17-year-old who played for the Trojans last season. The offensively talented Simpson hails from Wisconsin and has impressed.
“I think our forward group can play incredibly fast and has the ability to make life uncomfortable on the opposition,” Johnson said.
On the backend, the Hawks will have mostly a new group with only a couple of defencemen likely returning. Seeing time on the blue line will be newcomers such as Max Johnson (acquired from Humboldt), Evan Bortis from the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts, and Bronson Adams (from the Estevan Bruins).
Gone are standout goalies Declan Hobbs and Patrick Pugliese, who finished first and second on SJHL save percentage. Hobbs has aged out, while Pugliese opted to play in the North American Hockey League. As of late week, the trio of Justin Vertesi, Scott Bird and Caden Wilson were battling for crease time.
The Hawks’ veteran coach will make history this season. Johnson is just two wins away from being the Hawks career leader in coaching victories. He trails Bruce Thompson, who coached him as a player in the 1990s.