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NOJHL preseason preview: Espanola Express

NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

NOJHL NETWORK MEDIA UPDATE

Release Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2016

NOJHL preseason preview: Espanola Express

SUDBURY, Ont. – Despite a late shuffle in their bench staff following the departure of former Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League coach of the year Tom McCarthy, who is off to play his trade at the professional level in Romania, its remains business as usual for the Espanola Express.

Year No. 2 for the Express still sees president Chad Clarke, general manager Scott Ginson, director of hockey operations Randy Blake and newly promoted head coach Jason Rapcewicz having the club in capable hands.

The ninth NOJHL team preseason preview focuses on the Espanola Express.

Head Coach – Jason Rapcewicz
GM – Scott Ginson

NOJHL: Give us a preview of what you’ve seen or hope to see on already held on-ice sessions and what you expect to see in future skates.

CHAD CLARKE: We’ve found a drastic increase in skill level, character and hockey IQ in the players we have seen throughout our camps this off-season. It is exciting to see just how bigger, stronger and older we are at this time than last year – It is like day and night.

NOJHL: Who is one of your returning players that you’re expecting big things from?

CC: Dominik Lavergne joined us later in the season last year only playing in 36 games while picking up 23 points and was one of our top scorers in a shortened season. Dominik is a threat down low and he uses his large frame to his advantage to control the puck and create chances for himself. As a 19-year-old we expect Dominik to produce offensively and put up impressive numbers while playing a full season this year.

NOJHL: Is there another player who is back that should help lead the Express?

CC: Patrick Smith was an early season acquisition from the Elliot Lake Wildcats and he stepped in and immediately started contributing offensively as the set-up man on his line. His speed and vision allowed him to keep us on the scoreboard regularly. Patrick finished tied for second in scoring on our team last year netting 35 points in 50 games. As a 20-year-old we expect Patrick to continue where he left off and maintain the attention by colleges and universities for his play.

NOJHL: How about some thoughts on some of your young talent?

CC: ‘99 birth-year Mack Aiken had a successful season last year as a 16-year-old playing with the Express. Mack’s hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed by OHL scouts as he has been invited to the Niagara Ice Dogs tryout camp as an undrafted player Labour Day weekend.

NOJHL: Are there any newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with?

CC: We have acquired quite a few new players that will help us have a new look this year and impressed our staff.

NOJHL: Can you give us a breakdown on some of your fresh talent in Espanola?

CC: Tristan Salesse will add an offensive punch we were missing last year. His numbers from last season tell the story and we expect him to be a top scorer in the league this year. Tristan was an off-season acquisition from the Timmins Rock where he scored 75 points in 43 games. As a 20-year-old we expect Tristan to build on these numbers. He’s a ‘96 birth-year who hails from Terrace Bay, Ontario.

CC: Nathan Viberg is another ’96 birth-year who comes from Orlando Park, Illinois. He is also an offensive threat with NAHL experience playing for the Springfield Jr. Blues last season. Viberg is a natural goal scorer and his creativity allows him to score at will from all angles in the offensive zone. His skill and creativity will keep him at the top of the NOJHL scoreboard this year for the Express.

CC: Mike Polito is from Calgary who played for the El Paso Rhinos of the WSHL last season. He is a very fast, gritty player with strong offensive abilities. He impressed our coaches and management at our main camp this past weekend. His style of play will quickly find the hearts of Espanola fans. His speed and physical play creates opportunities and space on the ice for himself and we expect big things from the 19-year-old this season as we expect him to have a breakout year.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the preseason and the start of the 2016-17 campaign?

CC: We would like to use our six exhibition games to help our 10 returning players gel with our new players and gain some momentum heading into the season. In the regular season we will be looking to be more responsible in our own zone and we have no doubt that we will be much better offensively.

NOJHL: What can the fans of Espanola expect to see from your club this season?

CC: We worked hard this off-season to create a new atmosphere, a new image and a new mind set in Espanola by adding key players to make us a lot bigger, stronger, skilled and experienced. This summer we focused on getting older and more experienced. We now only have four players under the age of 19 and those players are very skilled young stars that do not look out of place at all with the new look older team. This season will be very exciting for the Express and we are looking forward to getting started.

NOJHL: What are some parting thoughts regarding the late coaching change after Tom McCarthy’s move up to the pros in Europe?

CC: We are expecting big things from new head coach Jason Rapcewicz this season with the Espanola Express. Jason is a former pro player and protégé of coaching legend Tom McCarthy. He has all the tools to be a very successful coach in our league and I’m excited to see him accomplish this. His expectations for the upcoming season are deservedly high. As for Tom, our entire organization couldn’t be happier and proud of him. This was one of his dreams to coach pro and see the world and after all the dreams he helped come true over his 18 year Junior career, it’s well deserved to see one of his own come true for the good guy.

EXPRESS PRESEASON GAMES

Friday, Aug. 26 vs. French River 7:30 p.m. (Regional Recreation Complex)
* Saturday, Aug. 27 vs. French River 7:30 p.m. (Sturgeon Falls)
# Thursday, Sept. 1 vs. Iroquois Falls 6 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
# Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Cochrane 8:30 p.m. (Tim Horton)
# Saturday, Sept. 3 vs. Kirkland Lake 12:30 p.m. (Tim Horton)
# Saturday, Sept. 3 vs. Kingston (OJHL) 8:30 p.m. (Tim Horton)
# Sunday, Sept. 4 vs. T.B.A. (Tim Horton)

* – denotes neutral site game @ Sturgeon Falls
# – denotes Polar Bear Cup @ Cochrane