With some new faces, Sault Ste. Marie’s Great North Midget League entry continues to prepare for a new season.
Coach Jamie Henderson, who takes over behind the bench after coaching Sault Ste. Marie’s minor midget team the past two seasons, is looking forward to the challenge this season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds.
“It feels like it’s a new group because it’s a new level so there’s eight 2004s (birth year) who we haven’t coached before and then everyone else (except for one player) we’ve coached before at the minor midget level,” Henderson said, “so it’s a good mixture.”
With five third-year midget players on the roster, Henderson spoke of the leadership that will be expected from that group.
“It’s not easy to get that third-year midget player because there’s a lot of competition with high school and the NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League),” Henderson said. “To get those guys, we’re really excited for that. It’s a good group.”
Among the 2002 birth years, the team named Mateo Perri as its captain for the upcoming season.
“Mateo was with us two years ago with the minor midget group and was a tremendous leader,” Henderson said. “Mateo is not going to be a big rah-rah type of captain but he’s definitely going to lead by example and compete. He’s a great student.”
The team has also received a boost as another 2002 birth year has decided to play his final year of midget eligibility in Michael Chaffay.
“Michael was close to making the jump to junior, but he thought that with our group, he could really grow as a player this year,” Henderson said. “We’re going to really depend on him.”
With the eight minor midget aged players, playing in major midget will be an adjustment but the expectation will also be somewhat high.
“We’re expecting big things from the ‘04s too,” Henderson also said. “They come from a strong team.”
“They had a lot of success,” Henderson also said. “They were well-coached. They bring a lot of skill. Now we need to combine that skill with the physicality and the grind that is going up to (places like) Kapuskasing and playing bigger, stronger kids.”
What’s the message for the younger players heading into their first GNML season?
“The biggest thing is it starts in practice,” Henderson said. “We had a camp in July, and we had a ton of drills which focused on competing and battles. That’s the only way you can prepare.”
The team opens up regular season play on Sept. 27 at home against the Timmins Majors. The team is scheduled to play in the Toronto Titans tournament a week earlier in its first tournament action of the season.