2017-18 Pollock Division Season Preview: Kincardine Bulldogs

A year removed from winning what was then still the Western Junior C championship, the Kincardine Bulldogs entered last year on a high.

But some of the losses from that championship team, and a disappointing playoffs, left Kincardine wanting more from their initial Pollock Division campaign. Head Coach Shawn Burrows says the team are looking to reset and try and recapture what made them so great two years ago; a smothering defensive team with a committee offense that could grind down any opponent. After a 4th place finish last year that saw them only a point out of 3rd, the Bulldogs are hoping another round of losses to their roster won’t hinder their attempt to climb the standings.

Up front, the loss of leading scorer Jesse Gunn will hurt, after he posted 32 points in 31 games. Also out the door are important depth scorers Tyler Fregona, 25 points in 32 games, Dalton Hnatko, 9 points in just 13 games, and Keegan McLelland, who had an impressive 15 points in just 27 games. That takes a serious chunk out of an already score by committee offense. Further adding to that is the likely departure of Bryce McFadden, who Coach Burrows says is likely going to play Junior B. McFadden had a sturdy 17 points in 20 games. The good news is that Mike Fiegehan, the team’s second leading scorer last year, will return to lead the offense. Fiegehan had 27 points in 34 games, and will be leaned on even more after leading the team in goals with 18. Brett Burrows will also come back after a promising year of 22 points in 36 games, and Coach Burrows thinks Brett can have a breakout season. If guys like Keegan Angel and Tyler Sutter return, after both having 15 point years, and some more additions are made through preseason, Coach Burrows is confident that despite some growing pains, this team can score enough to be competitive.

As mentioned before, when this team won in 2016, offense was far from its strong suit. Defensively, the Bulldogs are always formidable, and set themselves up to try and suffocate and frustrate opponents. This team will be well poised to do that again, despite the loss of Mike Osadca. He was leaned on as a leader in the room, always playing steady minutes in all situations, but he has aged out. Luckily for the Bulldogs, the returning cast is a very capable group. Kincardine will boast a top 3 of Robert White, who led the blueliners in points with 14, Payton Dunlop who had 12 points, and young Hunter Robbins-Gibbons, who had 10 points in nearly a full season. Coach Burrows thinks Robbins-Gibbons can take a big leap forward and become a more threatening point producer, particularly on special teams. Young Logan Swanton, who managed 9 points, will not return as he has signed on with the Cyclones in Junior B, but the team added some young local talent in Jesse Carnahan, Jake Fair, and Kent Ribey. Coach Burrows thinks they can all play a more up-tempo style to help inject more scoring into the Bulldogs’ game.

In the crease, the Bulldogs will miss the veteran presence of over age goalie Malcolm Young. Young played 22 games last season, winning 10, and was always reliable for a big save when needed. However, backup Craig Luinstra will return with his eyes set on becoming a number 1 in the league. In 19 appearances last year, Luinstra won 6 games and showed he has the potential to be a dominant presence between the pipes, and Coach Burrows says he likes what he’s seen out of him in camp so far. The team has also signed a young goalie to backup Luinstra, in local boy Ethan Primeau. Primeau was the starter for the Kincardine Midgets when they went to the All-Ontario Finals two seasons ago, and Burrows believes he has the raw talent to become a successful junior goalie.

For more on the upcoming Kincardine Bulldogs campaign, check out the full-length interview with Head Coach Shawn Burrows: