2017-18 Pollock Division Season Preview: Goderich Flyers

(Courtesy of @GoderichFlyers)

Despite another year being locked in the Pollock Division basement, the Goderich Flyers enter 2017-18 with further optimism that they can significantly improve.

Longtime coach and now PR Director for the club, Doug Cruikshank, says the team have brought in a number of good young players to challenge for roster spots. David Errington has moved to the GM’s role and Chris Corbett is the Head Coach, with the task of instilling more discipline to a team that had by far the most penalty minutes in the division with 971. Walkerton, a team with far better tools at their disposal, finished second with 867, but killed a majority of that off. Goderich did play well when they were 5 on 5, even winning the opening playoff game against a stacked Mitchell squad. The Flyers enter this year with renewed optimism under a different system hoping it yields improvement.

One are the Flyers weren’t bottom in was offense. They finished with the second fewest goals for with 107, besting Wingham’s 87. At the top of this lineup, there is plenty of talent. Ryan Stulp had a stellar season as the leading scorer, putting up 37 points in 32 games. The team at the time of writing is waiting to hear whether second leading scorer Tyler Stacey will return after 25 points in just 24 games. Tyler McCracken has aged out, but Noah Kuno is returning for his 3rd season as a Flyer and continues to improve, netting 21 points in 35 games. Cruikshank is expecting big things from Trent Michie, who had 12 points in 33 games. Michie has all the tools to be a big power forward that can cause problems at the net mouth at even strength and on the power play. Cruikshank says a number of young players have come to camp and shown the ability to step into the lineup, and the Flyers are hopeful they can get some key contributions from fresh faces this year to help leading man Stulp and an improving returning cast.¬†Cruikshank says look out for newcomer Noah Nurse, who finished his minor hockey in Goderich and has impressed in camp, scoring 5 goals in 3 preseason games. Young Chase Muers also impressed in 6 games last year with a goal and assist.

On the back end. the Flyers will benfit from a returning top pair of Morgan Benniweis and Brad Watson. They had 10 and 9 points respectively, but the defensive commitment and leadership they show will be a big boost to new players up and down the bench. Cruikshank says Benniweis is a leader in the room, and has shown up to camp in excellent shape, and is ready to take on more responsibility all over the ice. Watson brings a steady and calm presence to his position, as he only accrued 32 penalty minutes in 31 games. The Flyers desperately need to cut their penalties down, and the presence of Watson will help. This team allowed the most goals against in the division with 209, miles more than Hanover’s 147, and many came short-handed, so having a more responsible and steady D-core will go a long way. Trent Buchanan returns after being a 16-year-old on last year’s team, and showed flashes of a brilliant offensive D-man. Buchanan had 7 points, and his 4 goals all came on special teams; 3 on the power play and a short handed goal. His puck rushing ability will help this team. Rounding out the top 4 is Wyatt Carey, who had 4 points in 29 games and was never afraid to sacrifice his body short handed.

In net, the Flyers will move forward without Nathan Watson as he moves on after playing 23 times and logging almost 1,200 minutes for a sometimes leaky defense. Watson managed to win 4 of the Flyers 5 total wins last year, and his compete level never wavered despite a tough situation. His backup, Branden Bean will return, after making 21 appearances and notching the other win on the year. He will benefit from a hopefully improved defense and less time stopping power plays attempts, making over 500 saves in just short of 1,000 minutes on the ice. Cruikshank says goalies from across the region have come out to camp to try and gain playing time in a crease that’s seemingly up for grabs, but he says Bean has shown he’s determined to keep the net that he feels he’s earned. If the Flyers can stay out of the box more, and play a tighter system under Head Coach Corbett, Bean showed flashes of his ability in very tough circumstances to be the guy that can man the net for the team.

For more thoughts on the Goderich Flyers upcoming season, listen to the full interview with PR Director Doug Cruikshank: