After an extended break, Barrie Colts play 3 games in 4 nights this weekend, starting Thursday night at BMC
Barrie Colts goalie Kai Edmonds comes under attack during recent intrasquad action at the Barrie Molson Centre. After a long break of more than a week between pre-season games, the Colts are back at it Thursday night when they host the Niagara IceDogs at the BMC beginning at 7:30 p.m. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO
Dale Hawerchuk was just fine with the long stretch between preseason games for his Barrie Colts.
With NHL rookie camps in progress, the OHL shut down its exhibition schedule for a little more than a week.
The break allowed the Colts bench boss and his coaching staff time to get in some much-needed work with his team.
“Of course, you miss some of your guys, but it’s good for the young guys,” Hawerchuk said of the practice time. “They get used to the pace of practices, some of the systems and some of the special teams.”
The Colts will look to put to use what they worked on over the last 10 days when they wrap up their preseason schedule this weekend.
Barrie hosts the Niagara IceDogs on Thursday night and then the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday night, before a rematch in Hamilton on Sunday afternoon.
“You have to implement some of the stuff from practices,” said Hawerchuk, whose club kicks off its 2017-18 OHL season next Thursday against the Ottawa 67’s at the Barrie Molson Centre. “We’ll get some good video from that, so we’ll get some time to look at that before (the opener).”
This weekend’s games will also give Hawerchuk one final look before he determines his starting roster for next weekend’s opener.
While the blue-line is set, the club is still carrying three goaltenders and two extra forwards.
Overager goaltender Leo Lazarev, who was recently acquired from Ottawa, returnee Christian Propp and rookie Kai Edmonds remain in camp.
“In a perfect world, you want two,” Hawerchuk said of the goalie situation. “Edmonds is young yet as well, so we’ll see how that shakes out here.
“We tell the goalies that we monitor them during practices as well to make some decisions, but I think we’ll get through the weekend and make some decisions,” the coach added.
Lazarev brings a wealth of experience with him after spending the last three years in the nation’s capital. The Russian goaltender started more than 43 games in each of the last two seasons.
“We felt that he was a good fit for us,” Hawerchuk said. “The style he plays is pretty energetic and he’s one of those kind of goalies that when he gets rolling the team can really feed off it.
“We’re hoping he can do that and bring some big energy to that position,” he added. “Of course, we’ve seen him steal games. When he gets on a roll, he’s tough to beat.”
The Colts also still have 16 forwards remaining in camp, but that number will be trimmed down. How soon depends on when Alexey Lipanov (Tampa Bay), Ben Hawerchuk (Calgary) and Joey Keane (Chicago) return from NHL rookie camps.
“Yeah, we’ll probably make a couple of (moves up front),” Hawerchuk said. “Same thing, we want to get through the weekend and see when we get our three NHL guys back. We’ve got three games, so we can play some different people and make some assessments after that.”
The Colts have 18 possible returnees along with a skilled rookie group that includes first-overall OHL pick Ryan Suzuki and Russian import standouts Andrei Svechnikov and Lipanov.
“We’re still pretty young, but it’s a hungry group,” said Hawerchuk, whose current roster boasts just eight players with more than one year of OHL experience. “The guys got some mileage last year and of course the new guys coming in kind of added to the talent base.
“Again it’s a competition, but it’s kind of a friendly competition within,” he added. “The more guys push, the more they’ll get better.”
Other rookie forwards, such as Luke Bignell and Sam Rhodes, have also made their mark in camp.
“They all have their qualities as players, so we feel there’s a pretty good mix,” Hawerchuk said. “A little bit of sandpaper, some skill and some speed. Now it’s just a question of hopefully getting everybody here together and we can create some chemistry within the group.”
The defence appears set with rookies Nathan Allensen, Victor Hadfield and Matthew Hill possibly ready to challenge a group of five returnees for ice time.
“I like what I see from them,” Hawerchuk said of that trio. “It gives us good depth there, so it’s a good problem to have.”
Game time Thursday against Niagara is 7:30 p.m.
FAMILY WEEKEND: Hawerchuk got to put on his dad hat this past weekend and proudly watch both of his sons excel in their respective sports. Older son Eric, 28, a Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada member, teed off in the inaugural Ontario Championship at the National Pines Golf Club in Innisfil, while younger son Ben, 19, was invited to the Calgary Flames NHL rookie camp.
“I saw (Eric) play after watching Ben play on TV. It’s been family week,” the proud dad said, adding a chuckle.
Watching Ben lace up with the Flames was a great moment said the former Hockey Hall of Famer. He’s watched his son work hard to go from a fourth-liner in Barrie to a someone playing a key role with a lot of confidence now.
It only seemed like yesterday when Ben and Eric were kids and here they are now setting out on their own respective paths in the sports they love.
“Yeah they are, but I’m still king of the tennis court,” Hawerchuk said with a laugh. “It’s the only thing I’ve got left. It’s amazing how fast time goes.
“I can remember just starting to coach here, Ben running around like a little kid in the dressing room and the next thing you know here he is playing a big role for us.”