The Nanaimo Buccaneers should be able to swashbuckle with the best of them this season.
The team expects to be a contender this year as it begins its fourth season in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“All teams’ goals are to get to the cup. Our goal is to get there, too,” said Alex Orth, Bucs goaltender. “We’ve got a long season ahead of us, but the way we’re going now, I think it’s a good stepping stone forward.”
The Bucs have a lineup loaded with talent. It’s a reunion of sorts, with some returning faces back in black and yellow.
“We have really good forward lines, really good D and two really strong goalies, so it should be good,” said Jordan Levesque, recently named team captain.
The Buccaneers aren’t expecting everything to be smooth sailing. They start the regular season on the road Friday (Sept. 4) against the defending champions, the Campbell River Storm.
“They’re raising the banner there. I think it will be a great experience for our kids to see that, see what it’s going to take to win,” said Dan Lemmon, Bucs coach.
That banner is the goal for his team, and he said everyone in the dressing room knows it.
“That is ultimately the end goal. We all know that; we’re all working towards that…” Lemmon said. “But for that to happen, there’s going to be a number of small things that happen along the way. Right now, I think we’re mainly focusing on the task at hand and getting better every day.”
Here’s a look at the Buccaneers who will take the ice to start the season this weekend:
The Bucs have a ton of scoring, depth, and balance throughout the forward lines.
Will McNamara, third in the league in scoring last year, is back on his hometown team and the alternate captain is expected to lead the charge offensively. Levesque was sixth in league scoring a year ago. Trent Bell, Chad Bell, Nolan Richardson and Zach Funk are other key returnees up front and former major junior player Nick Gomerich is another forward to watch. Hobin Zinck, Owen Dalman, Jayden Schubert, Jesse Strangward and Billy Walters are some of the other guys in the mix.
“We’ve got all the firepower we need up front,” said Lemmon.
Coming back to the Bucs to be a leader on defence is former captain Jake Calverley, now an alternate captain. Coleman Doney is a skilled, smart D-man whom the coaching staff expects to be one of the league’s best blueliners.Clayton Peace will chip in offence from the blueline. Some other guys who will be leaned on for important minutes include Robert Mitchell and Tyler Graham.
The Buccaneers coaches have been hammering home the idea that defence needs to be a team concept.
“When we play that defensive hockey, we’re going to be a great team,” Lemmon said.
The Bucs brought in the 20-year-old Orth in the off-season and will be expecting steady and sometimes standout efforts from their starter. Cole Manns is the other member of the tandem.
Though the Bucs start with a pair of road games, it won’t be long before they’re back on home ice at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Levesque said fans are going to see “really high pace” this year.
“It’s a really fast team with good skill, so hopefully we’ll be able to show them that and entertain them as much as we can.”