SUDBURY, Ont. – There’s a buzz of excitement in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League surrounding its newest team, the Hearst Lumberjacks.
Since the news was announced that the Iroquois Falls Eskis had been sold and were relocating to Hearst, hockey fans in the NOJHL’s latest community have hopped on board fully to support its new Jr. A franchise.
Ticket sales have gone well and near capacity crowds in preseason home games sees the town of Hearst anxiously awaiting its regular season debut Friday evening vs. the Soo Thunderbirds at Claude Larose Arena.
Brought in to guide the Lumberjacks as their first-ever head coach and general manager was Marc Lafleur.
Lafleur spent five years in a similar role with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners where he helped led them to a NOJHL championship in 2014 and a pair of Dudley-Hewitt Cup appearances.
He’s also had a multitude of international experience serving on the coaching staff of Canada East at the past four World Jr. ‘A’ Challenge events, including winning a silver medal in 2016.
The 11th of 12 NOJHL team preseason previews focuses on the Hearst Lumberjacks.
Head Coach/GM – Marc Lafleur
NOJHL: What are you looking to see from your club heading into the 2017-18 campaign?
MARC LAFLEUR: Our expectations are to compete for the league title.
NOJHL: What have you seen from the squad through the preseason?
ML: Our compete level has been very high since we started skating. A solid skill level will also complement the work ethic and compete level.
NOJHL: Who are a couple of players that have made the move from Iroquois Falls that you expect big things from?
ML: Shadow Reuben and Artem Bortovskiy have looked very good so far and will be expected to be league-leaders at their positions. Reuben finished tied for second in league scoring last season with 78 points and tied for sixth overall in goals with 33. As for Bortovskiy, he ended up tied for sixth in the league in save percentage with a solid .912 rating.
NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve added that you’ve been impressed with?
ML: Forwards Max Griffioen, who played for Lambton Shores of the GOJHL, has been very impressive with his combination of size and skill while Trevor Golant led his Minnesota High School team to the State tournament semifinals. He will provide skill, grit and tenacity. Griffioen had four points in three exhibition games and Golant had three. Local boy Samuel Bourdages, who was a standout in the GNML last year, has looked very confident and poised to put up numbers this year. Bourdages had the game-winning goal in the team’s first preseason contest.
NOJHL: How has the community embraced the team so far and what has the level of excitement been since it was announced Hearst had joined the NOJHL?
ML: Ever since the sale of the team to Hearst, the community has been buzzing with talk of the Lumberjacks during the summer and into the preseason. People will notice why Hearst is considered one of the true hockey communities still left around.
NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season?
ML: During the preseason, we understood that with our late start compared to other teams, we will be facing struggles that will occur, as many systems and tactics need to be implemented. The start of the season will be exciting as September will be a month in which the Lumberjacks will be playing many home dates that will make the community happy and supportive.
Aug. 30 vs. Cochrane (5-2 Win)
Aug. 31 @ Timmins (6-2 Loss)
Sept. 3 vs. Timmins (4-2 Loss)
THE LUMBERJACKS ONLINE & SOCIAL MEDIA