Former ‘AAA’ Barrie Colt, Midhurst native notches hat trick against Gens
Owen Sound Attack rookie Mitchell Russell, who played his ‘AAA’ hockey with the Barrie Jr. Colts, is shown competing in the OHL Combine in April. The Midhurst native was a first-round selection of the Attack. AARON BELL/OHL IMAGES FILE PHOTO
With so many Owen Sound Attack veterans away at NHL camps, it is giving the young players a chance to show the coaching staff what they are made of.
“These young guys are being given a pretty big opportunity now to show what they can do while this ice time is available,” assistant coach Jordan Hill said Thursday before the Attack took the ice for their afternoon practice. “There are injuries that happen during the year.”
The youth didn’t let the coaches down on Wednesday night as the Attack improved to 3-0 in the pre-season with a 4-1 win over the Oshawa Generals in Pickering.
Rookie Mitchell Russell, a Midhurst native who played his 'AAA' hockey with the Barrie Jr. Colts, led the Owen Sound offence with a hat trick, while sophomore Aidan Dudas added a single.
In goal for the Attack, overager Zack Bowman stopped 11 of 12 shots, while rookie Mack Guzda stopped all seven shots he faced.
“Russell is a very good player and last night he showed a lot of what he can bring on the ice,” Hill said. “That is something we are going to be counting on a lot this year.”
What’s been impressive for the Attack is that they have put together a strong pre-season showing with many of their veterans away at NHL camps. Ten players have been skating with various NHL teams, including Nick Suzuki, Jonah Gadjovich, Maksim Sushko, Markus Phillips, Trenton Bourque, Jacob Friend, Ethan Szypula, Sean Durzi, Kevin Hancock and Zachary Roberts.
“A lot of the young guys have impressed me, but there are obviously things to work on,” Hill said. “It is a big transition for some of these young guys going from minor hockey to here in the OHL, but they have done well.”
Hill joined the team this year as an assistant coach after a pro career that saw him spend eight seasons as a defenceman with seven different teams in the ECHL and the American Hockey League. The 28-year-old said the experience has been really good so far.
“Alan Letang and Todd Gill have both been helping my transition along and I have been contributing any way I can with a lot of video sessions with the players,” Hill said. “I am another set of eyes obviously to help things out in practice and in games.”
Hill said he has really enjoyed working with the youngsters in the OHL as he can relate to a lot of them as they try to further their hockey careers.
“I have been in a situation where I was never drafted so I learned early on what hard work it takes at the level that you are competing at,” said Hill. “I also progressed into a leadership role as a captain in Sarnia and was expected to play big minutes.”
On the bench, Hill is working with Gill and the forwards, while Letang is in charge of the defence.
“It is a small change of pace since I am a defenceman by trade,” said Hill. “On the flip side of things, you can turn things around and say I have defended and studied forwards my whole career.”
Owen Sound continues its pre-season with a game on Saturday at 2 p.m. against the North Bay Battalion at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Owen Sound will travel to North Bay for a 2 p.m. game on Sunday, which concludes their exhibition schedule.
The Attack open the regular season on Sept. 23 when Flint visits Owen Sound for a 7:30 p.m. game at the Lumley-Bayshore.