By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Junior C Titans take to the ice at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre tonight, the first of several tryout sessions the club is having over the next couple of weeks to get ready for the 2010-2011 Noralta Junior C Hockey League season.
But while the club begin their second year in Morinville as the Titans, having retired the long-standing Super Cs jersey last season, they leave behind an impressive inaugural season in a continued search for better things. The Titans finished last season with a 16-9-3 record to give them a solid fifth place standing in a league of 16 teams. The finish was a marked increase from the previous season when the then Super Cs finished with a 5-21-2 record.
The tryouts over the next couple of weeks will allow the Titans to find the right combination of players who can gel into a team capable of bringing a championship pennant home to Morinville.
And while the club will undoubtedly have a roster of new players on the ice, those players will have a new coach on the bench. The Titans have brought in Jeff Montina as head coach, a man who is no stranger to many of the players who will benefit from his coaching.
“I’ve coached minor hockey in Morinville for 13 years now and kind of grew up with all the ones that are coming up to Junior now,” Montina said, adding that he is looking forward to seeing how some of those players fair during the upcoming tryouts. “We’re hoping for a good turn out and we’ll take the best 22 players there is. Nobody’s a shoe in. All 22 spots are up for grabs. The best 22 players will be in there.”
Montina said there are four tryout sessions this season: Sept. 10 at 8:15 p.m., Sept. 14 at 9:30 p.m., Sept. 21 at 9:30 p.m. and Sept. 24 at 8:15 p.m.
But Montina is hoping that potential players will not be turned off by the Junior C stigma.
“Everybody just sees that letter C and they figure it’s low end hockey,” he said. “It’s not. There’s a lot of players in this league that could easily play Junior B, and some of them Junior A. There’s a lot that just don’t because of the time commitments that are needed for those higher levels. Junior C has less of a time commitment.”
In between tryouts, Montina’s Titans will travel to Gibbons for an exhibition game Sept. 18, facing off against the Broncos, a team Montina coached last year.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a blast. It’ll be a totally different team than they had last year and this’ll be a different team than these guys had last year. So it’s all up in the air.”
But regardless of how the Titans do against his old team next Saturday night, Montina is confident that his Titans will be able to hold their own this season in the Noralta league, now down to 15 teams with the folding of the Edmonton Firebirds a couple weeks ago. Still, there are some changes Montina wants to make.
“Probably the biggest problem last year is we had a lot of penalty minutes,” he said, noting the Titans were number one in the league for penalties. “That is definitely something that’s got to be cleaned up. There’s a good group of players coming back. I see no reason this team can’t win a championship.”
Titans General Manager Darryl Glendenning is confident that Montina is the right man for the job, but feels the team’s previous head coach, Ed Telford, has left behind some big shoes to fill, especially given the team’s record last year.
“Over the last eight years, I can honestly say Ed Telford – I got to know him as a [fellow] coach and as a player that was coached by him,” Glendenning said. “He gave me lots of direction. He was a good coach, great for the community. He was always volunteering his time right from the time we were in Pee Wee all the way up into the Super Cs. I know we’re certainly going to miss him.”
The Titans begin the 28-game regular season Oct. 3 in Edmonton, facing off against the Ice and return to Morinville for their home opener Oct. 8 against the Riverman.