After a rough start to the season, the Huntsville Junior C Otters are determined to make this year’s team the best yet.
The Otters are working hard to bring their loyal fans what they want – a good old hockey game. “Things are starting to look better literally each day that passes,” says general manager Marc Gagnon, who is back on the bench as the interim coach following a mid-October decision to change up bench leadership. “The team has cut down its penalties drastically along with suspensions. The players along with the coaching staff are working hard to get structure in place. Everyone is on the same page and looking forward to every practice and game and want to continue to work hard.”
In their first away game with the new bench staff, Huntsville met Orillia and changed how it does business in a very short timeframe, looking and playing better on the ice.
“The boys bought into our systems and are eager to learn more. It makes our job a lot easier,” said Gagnon. Although they lost against Orillia, the team’s play was like night and day from the beginning of the season.
Team captain, Tye Lindeman, is solid on the Otters’ backend and logs a lot of game time. Goalie Brett Michals has played well in net.
Local defenseman, Tysen Robb, plays well alongside Lindeman. “Our defence as a group is much improved,” said Gagnon.
The upfront leadership of Kain Harrietha has really started to show.
Local 15-year-old Blake Punchard is adapting well and makes his physical presence known on the ice. “He’s a strong big kid who hits hard. I don’t think other teams know he’s only 15,” Gagnon said. “We’re a young team and we’re a committed group to continuous learning and we look forward to the future. Hard work pays off and the group knows that.”
With some stability and consistency in its coaching, the Junior C Otters have seen a definite improvement in game play over the past few weeks.
“The group of kids want to learn and it makes it pretty easy for us,” said Gagnon. “The main focus as general manager and coach is to build a team through hard work, structure, practice, and ongoing growth and development.”
Gagnon and staff are committed to helping the team reach its full potential. “There is lots of skill, positivity and talent out there paired with a willingness to learn,” said Gagnon. “This will continue to improve as the team works together on the ice. “The community has been very supportive of their team through thick and thin. The team is starting to gel.”
On Friday, October 22 in Huntsville, the Junior C Otters played the Caledon Golden Hawks and celebrated their first win of the season, 4-1.
Right from the start of the game, the Otters played with higher intensity and energy, and paid attention to the structure of their game. Goaltender Brett Michals “played an unbelievable game,” said Gagnon. “Our captain played a great game as well. He is our leader and he grabbed the bull by the horns and led the way. Newcomers Brody Belanger and Josh Beyer played important roles and were key to the win.”
On Sunday, October 24, the Otters hosted another home game against the Alliston Hornets. The team started off slow, finding themselves down 2-0 after two periods. With dedication and drive the team dug deep and worked even harder to make a comeback in the third period. Tysen Robb scored for the Otters, followed by an exciting breakaway goal by Adam Dupuis with just minutes left. Goaltender Ian Crane played a fantastic game. After going into overtime 3 on 3, Alliston took the win, but the Otters finished with 3 of 4 points from the weekend.
The team is happy with the direction it is turning towards. “Everyone is working hard with the same goal in mind and are all on the same page,” Gagnon said.
On Friday, Oct. 29, the Otters faced the Penetang Kings in an away game. Following a week of great practices, the Otters came out strong against the Kings in the first period, finding themselves up 1-0. The team struggled in their own end during the second and third periods but never backed down or gave up. Unfortunately, it was not enough to take the win and the Otters lost 5-3.
“The team continues to get stronger week after week through structure and high energy since the staffing change,” noted Gagnon. “Once again our goaltending was our strong point. Brett Michals was his usual, strong and solid. The kid is such a pro. His work ethic is unreal. Ian Crane, goalie, came in relief as Michals broke his skate blade. Crane played very well. I am very fortunate to have great goalies. All three are top notch.”
The team is prepping for two home games this coming weekend. Friday, November 5 will see the Huntsville Otters take on the Orillia Terriers at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, November 7, Huntsville will play against the Midland Flyers at 2:30 p.m. Come and cheer on your new and improved hometown team! Spectator entry requirements for the Canada Summit Centre and Don Lough Arena are still in place.
The Otters November schedule is available here.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!