Goal scoring could be at a premium for the Lakehead Thunderwolves this season.
Losing five of their top six scorers from a year ago means there will be pressure on returning veterans to step up their game and put the puck in the net.
It also opens opportunities for newcomers to show the coaching staff what they’ve got.
Rookie Cody Alcock, a two-time 20-goal scorer with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, hopes he can help fill the gap left by departing snipers Matt Caria and Luke Judson, both of whom elected not to return to the Thunderwolves in 2013-14.
Alcock, a four-year OHL veteran, said offence is what he does best.
“You can always add a presence of a forward who can put the puck in the net, so that’s what I’m hoping to do for the team,” the Oshawa native said Tuesday, prior to taking to the ice for the Wolves first official practice of the pre-season.
“I just hope to fit in doing everything right that the coaches want.”
It’s a wide-open competition for starting jobs this season, a fact coach Bill McDonald has made clear on numerous occasions.
Alcock, who captained the Frontenacs last season, loves the idea of having to earn his spot all over again.
“With a new coach, he’s got all new faces here, so he really doesn’t know what to expect from people, so that’s why it’s important that each individual goes out and plays the game the way they can because he hasn’t seen anyone play. Right now it’s an open trial and anyone can make the team.”
Fellow recruit Kelin Ainsworth spent last season at Lake Superior State University, where he collected just two goals in 25 NCAA contests.
But the 21-year-old scored 26 goals in his final season with the North American Hockey League’s Traverse City North Stars and said he loves battling it out for a place on the roster.
“It’s fun. Everyone is working for a spot right now. The coach says no one has a spot until training camp (is over).”
Despite his lack of fire power last season, Ainsworth, who relished the idea of playing in front of the home crowd, wants to be counted into the offensive mix when the OUA season gets under way next month.
“I’ve always considered myself a playmaker, so I’m going to stick to my game like that,” he said.
“I’ve played a few years of college, so hopefully I’ll bring a little leadership here and play my game.”
Veteran defenceman Mike Quesnele, who’ll be joined this season by younger brother David, says everyone coming in with a clean slate is a good thing.
Coming off a season of turmoil, one that saw them unceremoniously dumped in the opening round of the playoffs for just the second time in team history, Quesnele said they want to put the past in the past and focus on the future.
On Tuesday he liked what he saw.
“Everyone looks excited. It’s been quite some time since we’ve been on the ice, so I’m hoping it’s a pretty good couple of days.”
The Sault Ste. Marie-born Quesnele knows McDonald approaches the game with a no-nonsense style and said like it or not, they’re going to have to get used to it in a hurry.
And that’s not a bad thing, he added.
“I don’t think it matters if they’re ready or not. It’s something this team needs and I hope it’s something that’s going to be enforced an enacted and I hope we have enough guys who will buy in. Everything I’ve heard around town is Billy is a hard-ass if you don’t buy into him, so hopefully we can make him a players’ coach and listen.”
Claw marks: The Wolves open pre-season play on Oct. 4 when they host the UPEI Panthers ... Forwards Carson Dubchak (tailbone), Brennan Menard (concussion) and Jason Grecica (elbow) all sat out practice with injuries ... The Wolves had five goalies in camp, including former Dryden Ice Dogs netminder Kim Wildhaber. Fellow Ice Dog A.J. Merritt was among the walk-on hopefuls.
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