2019-20 PJHL Pollock Division Season Preview: Kincardine Bulldogs
Another steady season top to bottom brought the Kincardine Bulldogs another top 3 finish in the Pollock Division.
Now, after some changes, the question is can they remain there? New Head Coach Todd Norman, formerly an assistant coach in Listowel, takes over a talented group known for punishing defense and suffocating fore checking, and he’ll have plenty of returning weapons to work with. At the time of writing, there are still some major roster question marks in one particular area, but the returning cast alone make the Bulldogs a contender once more.
Up front, the Bulldogs will return a veteran cast of great scorers, led by last year’s leading scorer Jordan Caskenette (45 points). In fact, the Bulldogs will welcome back all 3 of their top scorers last year, as Mike Fiegehen (41 points) and Logan Freiburger (38 points) all return for one more go with the franchise. Any time a team as competitive as the Kincardine brings back their top 3 players, that usually bodes well for a successful campaign. That top line is one of the most consistent units out there, and they defend just as well as they score, which is the Kincardine way. Bolstering the scoring, which lat year finished 3rd best in the division (153 goals), will be the versatile and speedy Jerrid Fossold (27 points). Fossold became a regular face on the power play and he can kill penalties and back check effectively with his quick feet. Over-agers Brett Burrows (23 points) and Tyler Sutter (11 points) are back to provide even further veteran scoring depth. New signing Kaleb Martin, and youngster from the Grey-Bruce Highlanders, will also get a chance to provide some speed and offensive pop. Also, Coach Norman has lured former Listowel Cyclone speedster Bryce McFadden, who last year had 17 points in Jr. B and is as gritty and hard working as they come. He’s a top flight penalty killer all day long.
On defense, Kincardine will continue to be a lock down unit, just as they were last year finishing with the 3rd best goals against (133). Returning to patrol the line is top defender Logan Swanton, one of the best all around defenders in the division, who can provide offense (27 points) and be a shutdown specialist when the situation calls for it. Unfortunately, versatile puck mover and big hitter Hunter Robbins-Gibbons has aged out, but Kent Ribey (4 points) will be back to take another step forward and provide solid stay at home defending. Ribey is a reliable defender and while he isn’t in the puck rushing defender mold, he will be given plenty of chances to provide more scoring. Brett Angel (5 points) is in a similar position, where he provides gritty defending and shut down play, but will be given chances to get more involved up the ice surface. The Bulldogs have also signed promising young defender Joseph Pringle, another great product form the Grey-Bruce Highlanders who has a lot of upside and can really skate. He will be given early opportunities to show he can make a power play click.
The one glaring question mark at the time of writing is the goalie situation. Veteran Craig Luinstra, who was a top end workhorse for the last few seasons, has moved on, and there is currently a battle for the position, in terms of starter and backup. Kincardine acquired former Wingham goalie Jamie Brock in a trade with the Ironmen, but it’s unclear whether he will seize the job. In the pre-season, Sean Andrus, Aidan Langlois and Caden Prues have all started 2 games, with 4 others getting 1, none of them Brock. This will be something to keep a close eye on for sure, but even just losing Luinstra is a big challenge in and of itself. That said, Todd Norman is an astute talent hawk, and he will no doubt find a capable backstop for the club. He watched some pretty darn good ones in Listowel in his time there, so he knows what he wants.
The Bulldogs should still be a top 3 contender, but the gap is closing and many teams are nipping at their heels. But if Kincardine has shown one thing over the last few years, it’s that they’ll always play with structure, work above their talent level and never back down from anyone, and that will no doubt continue under the new regime. Kincardine will open their season in Hanover on Friday September 13th at 8 p.m.