By Kirk Jessome
After falling just short of the conference playoffs last year, the Tigers men’s hockey team is about to kick off the 2019-20 season and a run back into the post-season.
Last season saw the rise of two rookie goaltenders who made their mark quickly in the AUS conference. Reilly Pickard and Connor Hicks split the majority of the season, combining for the most saves made in the conference.
Pickard came out on top between the two in number of wins on the season, so he could be an early favourite for the starting spot, but the battle between the two for that position should keep them both on their game early in the season.
Offensively, many of the key pieces from last season have returned to the Tigers lineup this year, including leading scorers Andrew Shewfelt and Jonathan Cyr, who are both entering their third seasons as Tigers.
Also coming off a breakout season is sophomore defenceman Connor Welsh. He finished sixth in scoring amongst defencemen in the conference last year racking up 15 assists for the Tigers in his debut season, many of them coming on power play chances.
Head coach Chris Donnelly’s team finished last in total goals for, which kept his rookie goaltenders busy. To help his team’s offensive troubles, he spent last year recruiting high-scoring forwards to find the back of the net for him this season.
Perhaps the most notable of those recruits is Cameron Thompson. Thompson finished his junior career with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League, averaging nearly a point per game in a very tough and talented league.
Also looking to make immediate scoring impacts are Maritime Hockey League (MHL) alumni Logan Johnston, Matt Green, Brett Crossley and Michael Dill. Each was a scoring threat for their respective teams in the MHL, with Johnston finishing fourth overall in scoring last season and Dill being a former rookie of the year and scoring leader.
If these recruits can contribute to the Tigers offensively as much as they have in their junior careers, puck possession should surely start to shift in the Tigers favour, and take some pressure off of the defensive end. The Tigers goaltenders have already shown they are solid, so look for the offensive presence to be the story of the season early on.
The Tigers went 0-2 in the pre-season, losing both games in over time. You can catch the start of the regular season tonight at the Halifax Forum at 7:00pm.