The region’s junior ‘A’ hockey league is aiming to begin its 2020-21 season on October 1, pending approval of its return-to-play plan by local health authorities.
In a media statement issued September 4, the commissioner of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), Kevin Abrams, announced that his league, using the Hockey Eastern Ontario return-to-play plan as a guide, has been working with “four regional health units and ten municipalities through our twelve member teams” to formulate a path forward for hockey to resume.
The plan includes “modified play in pre-season” to begin October 1 for all teams, including the Hawkesbury Hawks and Cornwall Colts.
“In these uniquely challenging times, I must thank our member teams, the players and parents participating in the current programs, as well as the HEO RTP Task Team, the HEO Board and Staff, and the 4 local health units and facilities in the 10 municipalities that are home to the CCHL, for their support and patience as we work through these unprecedented times together.”
Kevin Abrams, commissioner of the CCHL
The 2019-20 CCHL season was abruptly halted in March, following instructions from Hockey Canada to suspend play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league had just begun its playoffs, which included the Hawks, the second-place team from the Yzerman Division. The Colts didn’t qualify for the post-season, ending the campaign fifth in the division.
In preparation for the hoped puck drop on a new season, teams are spending this month engaged in training, skills development, and evaluation. Upon approval of the CCHL plan for the pre-season, Abrams will “submit a similar proposal for the commencement of the CCHL regular season in the ensuing weeks.”
Fresh off last weekend’s 2020-21 season training camp in Hawkesbury, the Hawks have announced the signing of a new goaltender.
The club inked 20-year-old Kirkland native Thomas Gale, who was recently named NCDC goaltender of the year for the 2019-20 season. The backstop is also an NCAA Division 1 commit, slated to play at Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts) starting with the 2021-22 season.
With the Boston Jr. Bruins last winter, the netminder posted a 2.38 goals-against average on 41 games.
The Hawks also recently announced an addition to their coaching crew, as Dominic Lamarche joined the club in the capacity of an assistant coach.
A local businessman, Lamarche has been coaching for the past seven years and formerly played in the CCHL. He’s a Hawks alumnus.
Rick Dorval returns as head coach and general manager.
On his signing of goaltender Gale, Dorval says, “I’ve been tracking Tommy for two years now. The way he reads puck coming off the opponent’s sticks [and] the way he plays the puck are beyond his years. Furthermore, his compete level will bring some leadership to this group. The opportunity to bring in a goalie with this experience and ability for the Fred Page Cup is going to be a big push for our program.”
It’s been tough for the squad to get back on the ice this summer, due to the COVID-19 situation. The club’s development camp was scrapped, while training camp was delayed until last weekend, operating under current Hockey Canada and health authority restrictions.
While teams across the region’s junior ‘A’ league have been busy with behind-the-scenes preparations and training camps, there remains uncertainty as to when/if the puck will actually drop on the 2020-21 campaign. At last check, the CCHL was looking at an October start, delaying its opening by a month. Currently, Hockey Canada guidelines and health authority regulations bar any inter-club play.
In what seems like some sense of normalcy returning to the hockey world, junior teams across our region are looking forward to their 2020 training camps, and the Hawkesbury Hawks of the CCHL are no exception, set to holds theirs starting later this week.
The 2020-21 training camp for the junior ‘A’ Hawks is scheduled to run August 21 through 23, at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex, in Hawkesbury.
The Central Canada Hockey League (junior ‘A’) held its Annual General Meeting on June 29, the first time it had been done via video conferencing, for the 12 clubs of the Eastern Ontario loop.
“While uncertainty remains, the return to play protocols developed by Hockey Eastern Ontario through our four local health units and the Canadian Junior Hockey League have allowed us to prepare for the upcoming weeks and months.
The CCHL will conduct its scheduled meeting on July 15, and at that time will confirm the start date and schedule length based on the most current information of the day.
We look forward to hitting the ice for training camp and our annual showcase when it is safe for players, officials and spectators to do so.
CCHL announcement following the 2020 Annual General Meeting
The 2019-20 came to an abrupt end in March, with the playoffs set to begin, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandated Hockey Canada shutdown.
The Hawkesbury Hawks (36-24-2-0) were scheduled to play the Smiths Falls Bear (33.24-3-2) in their opening-round playoff series, while the Cornwall Colts (21-35-1-5) didn’t qualify for post-season action.
What’s old is new again, as the saying goes. The Central Canada Hockey League 2 has become the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, with junior ‘B’ hockey’s local loop returning to its roots.
Back in 2015, the CCHL2 was launched with fanfare, created from the ashes of the EOJHL. At the time, sources told me change was afoot amongst the existing junior ‘B’ hockey clubs which comprised the EOJHL. The Ottawa-based teams were looking to form a new league, aligned with the junior ‘A’ CCHL, while the remainder of the clubs from Alexandria through to Gananoque explored going on without them in a smaller junior ‘B’ league.
Longtime followers of the league would remember that back then there were two conferences, each with two divisions, and a total of 22 teams. Remember the Akwesasne Wolves, Morrisburg Lions, and Gananoque Islanders, among others? These clubs were left out when the CCHL2 was formed.
In April of 2015, I reported in The Glengarry News that the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League would cease operations.
Clubs interested in being part of the CCHL2 had to apply with the clear understanding that those behind the new league wanted to reduce its number to 16. As well, the teams had to commit to providing a CCHL-like (junior ‘A’) experience for players.
Both the Alexandria Glens and Char-Lan Rebels were successful in garnering franchises in the CCHL2. Over the ensuing five seasons, administratively, the junior ‘B’ league was largely run by those behind the junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario, as was the U18 league which they took over as well.
Kevin Abrams served as commissioner of the leagues for this stretch, and with the 2020 rebrand, he hands the baton for the EOJHL to Sean Marcellus, who previously worked as director of hockey operations for the leagues.
“I take great pride in being named Commissioner of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League. I originally had my first hockey job in the old EOJHL working with the Arnprior Packers back in 2012 so to be able to take the reigns at the league level in 2020 is very exciting for me. Working alongside Kevin Abrams has benefited me in more ways than I can explain, he gave me a chance five years ago and his leadership and direction has prepared me greatly for this position. I am very thankful to our board of governors for showing confidence in me and I am excited at being tasked at helping lead this league in a positive manner moving forward.”
Sean Marcellus statement
From the league’s announcement of the change: “For the past five seasons, the CCHL2 has evolved into a top developmental league for the CCHL and levels above. That will continue with the new EOJHL but with a focus on independence as a league with 11 of the 16 teams operated without CCHL ownership.”
It is perhaps that word ‘independence’ that elicits the most curiosity, as one wonders how that will play out for the 2020-21 season and beyond. Part of the CCHL2’s raison d’être was its tight connection with junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario. This relationship included clubs signing agreements with CCHL teams to facilitate the development and exchange of players. This went so far as some combined training, at least in the case of the Char-Lan Rebels (junior ‘B’) and Cornwall Colts (junior ‘A’).
The former EOJHL was entirely independent of the CCHL, though clubs at the two levels did find ways to work together. It wasn’t uncommon, for example, to have a player signed to a junior ‘B’ card playing a handful of games at the junior ‘A’ level.
So indeed, this change may end up being a return to the past in many ways. But I wouldn’t bet on a return of any of the lost teams, the ‘B’ in the league’s name, or face cages (remember those?)
Meanwhile, work towards the on-ice product continues, as teams recruit players and plan for their 2020 training camps, scheduled for later this summer.
Prior to the shutdown, the region’s junior ‘A’ league held its annual bantam protect draft.
Hawkesbury’s first pick came fourth in the first round, as the Hawks chose Brad Horner, a defenceman from Vankleek Hill. He played last season with the Eastern Ontario Wild ‘AAA’ major bantam hockey team.
Other members of the Hawks 2020 draft class were Marc-Olivier McCarthy (forward, Glen Robertson), Yanick Blanchard (forward, Embrun), Derek Larocque (forward, Alexandria), Lucas Peever (forward, St. Albert), Mathieu Levesque (defenceman, Hawkesbury), Antoine Dorion (forward, Orleans), Jake Pulkinghorn (defenceman, Ottawa), Justin Flamini (defenceman, Cumberland), and Jayson McIntyre (forward, Orleans).
Of note, two of the draft selections are students at Alexandria’s École secondaire catholique Le Relais. Another student from the school was picked by the Cornwall Colts.
The Hawks ended the 2019-20 season second in the Yzerman Division, with a record of 36 wins, 24 regulation losses, and 2 overtime defeats, for 74 points. The squad was slated to open the CCHL playoffs against the third-place team from the Robinson Division, the Smiths Falls Bears (33-24-5, for 71 points). Interestingly, the teams had identical regular-season powerplay and penalty kill percentages, at 18.3 and 86 percent, respectively.
On the cancellation of the playoffs, Alexandria’s Felix Sauve, a rookie defenceman with the Hawks, admitted to me, “It sucks! We had a lot of key pieces this year which could have brought us far in the long run. It’s hard to say goodbye to some of the boys since you don’t know when you will meet or cross paths again.” However, the teen acknowledged, “The safety of everyone is the number 1 priority, so it was the right move.”
Sauve saw action in 52 games, notching 1 goal and 5 assists, along with 32 penalty minutes.
He was among several local athletes who were mainstays on the roster this season, including forwards Mathieu Sabourin and Jeremy Quesnel.
Hawk Luke Grainger was honoured with a league award as the 2019-20 Top Graduating Player. The skater from Beaconsfield led the CCHL in scoring with 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 56 games. He’s committed to playing NCAA hockey next season at Western Michigan University for next season.
In the league’s announcement, head coach Rick Dorval was quoted as saying, “Luke’s development with and without the puck has been tremendous. He is one of the most electrifying players in this league and is always a threat to opponents. He can move as fast east-west as north-south. We will miss him next year but wish him the best of luck at WMU.”
Aside from Grainger, the Hawks bid adieu to Matt Gasuik, Azzaro Tinling, Sebastien Paquette, Shane McGrath, and Zach Johnson.
2020 Summer Camp
Registration for the Hawkesbury Hawks summer camp is now open. The event is scheduled for June 19 to 21, but is subject to change due to Hockey Canada mandates around the COVID-19 situation.
The camp will be held in Gloucester, at the Richcraft Sensplex. Entry is $250, and players will each have approximately 4.5 hours of ice time spread over three games.
With five regular-season CCHL games remaining, the Hawkesbury Hawks have already clinched a playoff position, currently placed second in the Yzerman Division, on a record of 34-21-2-0.
The team includes a trio of players from Alexandria.
Mathieu Sabourin is a 19-year-old forward, who checks in 6 ft., 146 lb. and wears jersey number 7. He’s played in 31 games this season with the junior ‘A’ hockey club, notching 10 points and 22 penalty minutes. Last season, Sabourin was in the CCHL2 with the Char-Lan Rebels.
Wearing jersey 15 is Jeremy Quesnel, also 19 and playing forward. The 5 ft. 8 in, 150 lb. skater has suited up for 56 Hawks games this season, scoring 31 points and taking 80 PIM. He was a member of the Cornwall Colts for the previous two seasons.
On defence is Felix Sauve, number 79. The 17-year-old blueliner, a rookie, is 5 ft. 11 in., 170 lb. He’s recorded 5 points and 28 PIM with the Hawks. Last season, he skated at the junior ‘B’ level with the Alexandria Glens.
Hawkesbury has one hometown player: Jeremie Payant is a rookie forward who wears jersey number 71.
The team’s roster of defensive players also includes St. Eugene’s Austin Gaspar and Samuel Mayer from L’Orignal.
All five of Hawkesbury’s remaining CCHL regular-season games this season are road contests, starting with February 28 in Brockville.
The region’s junior ‘A’ hockey league, the CCHL, yesterday announced that the Kanata Laser franchise, owned by Cory Greer and Nick Urbisci, has been transferred to Jim Seyers and Ryan Leonard who plan to move the club to Renfrew for the 2020-21 season, to play as the Renfrew Wolves.
Renfrew is located northwest of Ottawa, just off Highway 17 at Highway 60, approximately 194 km from Alexandria. The rink is known as the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre and is located in the western part of the community.
Renfrew is currently home to the junior ‘B’ Timberwolves, which, according to renfrewtoday.ca, will be relocated to another community yet to be confirmed. Speculation is that the likely new home would be Comben, as the team now playing there, the Whitewater Kings, is working to move to Petawawa.
The Timberwolves and Kings play in the Richardson Division of the CCHL2, with the former in fourth place in the standings and playoff-bound, on a record of 25-14-1-4, while the latter will be watching the post-season from the stands, as Whitewater stands seventh, on a record of 10-29-3-2. Both teams have completed their 2019-20 regular-season schedules.
Renfrew will take on neighbouring Arnprior in round one of the junior ‘B’ playoffs, starting next week.
As for the Lasers of the CCHL, Kanata is currently fifth of six teams in the Richardson Division, with four games remaining. Their regular season continues through March 8. The Lasers play out of the Kanata Recreation Complex.
On the team’s relocation, league commissioner Kevin Abrams says, “This represents full-circle closure of the CCHL’s plan to expand from 10 to 12 teams and relocate two city-based teams to outside markets. This has been 12 years in the making, after expansion to Kemptville and Carleton Place, and relocation of [the] Gloucester [club] to Rockland.”
Abrams describes Renfrew as “a vibrant community that will embrace everything that CCHL hockey is about,” adding, “and I look forward to welcoming them to the world of Junior A hockey. I would like to thank the Greer family for their commitment to the Lasers and the CCHL, and welcome Jim Seyers and Ryan Leonard to our league.”
The Ottawa Jr. Senators of the CCHL recently acknowledged milestones achieved by Ethan Mulhearn, who hails from Williamstown.
The 19-year-old forward has played in 53 games with the Sens this season, notching 17 goals and 24 assists, along with 70 penalty minutes.
His junior ‘A’ hockey career began in the 2015-16 season, where he skated in three games for the CCHL Cornwall Colts. Much of that winter was played with the U18 Colts. Mulhearn went on to play three full seasons with the CCHL Colts.
The Senators are currently in third place in the Yzerman Division, with a record of 27-24-2-0. Mulhearn leads his team in points (41), is tied for first in assists (24), and is third in goals scored (17).
In January 12 CCHL hockey action on the road in Rockland, Alexandria’s Felix Sauve, playing for the Hawkesbury Hawks, potted his first career junior ‘A’ goal, in his team’s 4-3 loss to the Nationals.
The 17-year-old defenceman’s tally came 6:27 into the third period, as the Hawks fought their way back into a game that they trailed 3-1 entering the frame. Sauve’s goal was assisted by Jeremy Quesnel, also from the Alexandria area, and Zachary Lefebvre.
Hawkesbury’s other goals were netted by Mark Cooper and Brendan McCarthy, with Azzaro Tinling, Dovar Tinling, and Sean E. Clarke nabbing the helpers.
Sauve, who checks in at 5 ft. 11 in., 170 lb, also has 4 assists on the season.
Last year, he split the campaign between the CCHL2 Alexandria Glens and the U18 Hawkesbury Hawks, recording a combined 38 points.
Since the January 12 contest, the CCHL Hawks have skated to a pair of wins, beating Kanata 4-2 and blanking Brockville 3-0.
Hawkesbury currently sits second in the Yzerman Division, with a record of 26 wins, 16 regulation losses, and 2 overtime losses.