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NOJHL preseason preview: Espanola Express

SUDBURY, Ont. – Wins were tough to come by in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League last season for the Espanola Express.

However, with a new coaching staff in place, the Express are looking to reverse course as they aim to improve their fortunes and make their mark in the 2018-19 NOJHL standings.

Looking for experience to instigate the turnaround in Espanola, Express team president and general manager Chad Clarke has brought on board veteran bench boss Dave Clancy to serve as the club’s new coach.

Also joining Clancy behind the bench will be associate coach Clayton Bertrand and assistant coach Vagelli Sakellaris, who will add further experience to the Espanola staff.

The squad has also secured the services of experienced equipment manager Brian Workman and trainer Chris Seguin to provide the players in Espanola first-rate skill in those areas.

Add in a newly signed director of sales and promotions, in the affable Grant Trayner, Express GM Clarke has boosted the organization significantly as the commencement of the regular season rapidly approaches.

The ninth of 12 NOJHL team preseason previews put together by the league, in cooperation with its member clubs, today features the Espanola Express.

NOJHL: What is the outlook for the team as you head into the 2018-19 season?

CHAD CLARKE: Our expectations for this year is to definitely try and improve our on-ice structure. By doing this we have our sights set on making the playoffs and hopefully enjoy some post-season success.

NOJHL: What you’ve seen in training camp and exhibition games that you believe bodes well for the organization?

C.C.: Our skill set is much further along then where we were last season at this time. We expect our team to grow stronger week-by-week.

NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you look to lead the club?

C.C.: We are expecting forward Matt Reynolds to have a big season for us while defenceman Leo Mihalo will add grit to our back end. Reynolds joined us in mid-November last season and went on score seven times, including a game-winner, and add nine assists for 16 points. Mihalo was steady on defence for us and chipped in offensively with six points.

NOJHL: Who are some your newcomers that have shown promise as you near your home-opener Friday against Blind River?

C.C.: Mitchell Lee has a great offensive minded skill set as expectations are high for him. Also, Chase Lammi, Jacob Doucet and Joel Rainville have had a strong start to the preseason and we hope the young guns will continue to lead by example with their exemplary work ethic and relentless pursuit of the puck.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season and beyond?

C.C.: Our goals to begin the season are to compete hard for the puck every night. If we are the hardest working team every night we will find our success. Our expectations are to improve upon last season and make the playoffs. I have no doubt with coach Clancy’s structure and that of the rest of the staff, this will be accomplished.