Friday, September 14, 2012

Four teams kick off MWJHL season

The Midwest Junior Hockey League kicks off its inaugural season with four games on the docket this weekend.

The Michigan Ice Dogs, with heavy hearts after their longtime owner, Terry Kucharski, passed away at the end of August, travel to play the Soo Firehawks, while the Holland River Bandits will host the Hartland Hounds.

For Holland, led by former college and professional player Jason McCrimmon behind the bench, this weekend should serve as a test to gauge the talent of the River Bandits.

“I expect our guys to give 110 percent in every aspect of the game, from putting shots on the net, finishing checks, playing our position and protecting our goalie’s house,” McCrimmon said. “I want to send the message that the Holland River Bandits is a quality team that will work hard 60 minutes and play to win no matter at home or on the road.”

The Hounds, who have a large contingent of local players, have high expectations for opening weekend.

“We had a good test last weekend against the University of Michigan-Dearborn (in an exhibition game) and several of our guys played very well,” Hounds’ coach Randy Montrose said. “As a staff, we took note of what we needed to work on as a team and we did that this week in practice. If the effort and work ethic is there this weekend, I would expect us to be successful.”

In Sault Ste. Marie, the hometown Firehawks are looking to carve a big niche in the hockey community.

“I’m looking for effort, desire and hard work,” said Soo coach Joe Esson. “We are a gritty team and have been waiting a long time for this weekend. We are very proud of our program, coaches, owners, players, arena, fans and our town. It’s a sure thing we will be a very difficult team to play. Our goal is to be a classy, hard-working junior team. We are business and this is a way of life to us.”

Injuries have struck the Ice Dogs, but that doesn’t mean coach Tony Graham is making excuses.

“We're looking for a quick start from our veterans,” Graham said. “The Ice Dogs are very excited to get goalie Andrew Freeman from Los Angeles as he is going to help us out a lot. Injuries are making the weekend a little difficult, but we have to ride our younger guys.”

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