The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks roster will have a decidedly different look as they get set to open the 2018/19 WOAA Sr. AA Hockey League season.
While 19 players from last season’s roster have so far re-signed with the club, most noticeable will be the departure of several long-time veterans.
Greg Thede has decided to retire from competitive hockey after 11 seasons as captain and seven WOAA Sr. AA championships, while franchise leading scorer Brent MacDermid, two-time league leading scorer Bryan Kazarian and three-time WOAA Sr. AA champion Nick Quaid are retiring or undecided on their future at this time.
Between them, they own 18 championship rings and played a huge role in putting Winterhawks hockey on the map.
Looking ahead, Head Coach Matt Turcotte has assembled a team that includes returning forwards Trent Hawke, Andy Fracz, Miles MacLean, Andy Mitchell, Blake Underwood, Curtis Johnston, James McHaig, Jay Thomson, Lauchlin Elder, Connor Patton, Chris King and Adam Little.
On defence, Trevor Smith returns for his 9th season to anchor the blue line, along with last season’s rookie-of-the-year Josh Hopkin, as well as Justin Ainslie, Aeric Annetta and Mike Smailes.
In goal, Jeff Flagler will protect the net for his third season as a Winterhawk, along with returnee Matt Tutin and newcomer Eric Peicheff, a 25-year old who previously played for the WOAA’s Tavistock Royals.
The team is overjoyed have forward Michael Johnstone re-join the team. The 28-year old Southampton native joined the team in 2016/17, but missed all of last season after being diagnosed with bone cancer.
“Mike is an inspiration, an outstanding hockey player and an even better person, we are thrilled to have him back, healthy and hungry to compete on the ice,” said Turcotte.
Returning after a two-year hiatus is Southampton native Josh Jackson. The 32-year old originally joined the team in 2007/08, playing 106 career games. The versatile Jackson enters his 10th season as a Winterhawk and can line up at either forward or defence.
Also joining the club is long-time WOAA veteran Mike Rocca. The Owen Sound resident played the last nine seasons with Shallow Lake, compiling 149 points in 169 games in that time.
The club has also signed three players graduating from the junior ranks in forward Matt Shields, defencemen Josh Deyell and Jamie Shoemaker.
Shields, 22, played five seasons in the PJHL Pollock Division with Kincardine, Walkerton and Hanover. The Southampton native scored 44 goals and 77 points in 107 games in his junior career.
Deyell, 21, played all five seasons of his junior career in Walkerton. The offensively gifted blueliner scored 104 points in 121 regular season games, and was named the league’s top defenceman in 2015/16.
The 22-year old Shoemaker is an intimidating presence at 6’5″ and can line up at either forward or defence. The Wiarton native played five seasons of junior hockey, shared between the Hanover Barons, Tavistock Braves and Mitchell Hawks.
Rounding out the new additions is 31-year old Kody O’Connor. The Pembroke native is new to the area, but previously played Jr. B with the Ganonoque Islanders. O’Connor also brings versatility, capable of lining up as a forward or defenceman.
The Winterhawks will hit the ice for the Outlaw Brew Co. Home Opener on Saturday as part of Hockey Day in Saugeen Shores festivities at The Plex.
Saugeen Shores Storm minor hockey teams will host rivals from Kincardine Kinucks minor hockey in five games starting at 9:00am with the Novice girls.
The Kincardine Bulldogs will then host the Goderich Flyers in a PJHL Pollock Division regular season game at 3:30pm.
The Winterhawks will then host their Bruce County rivals the Ripley Wolves at 7:30pm.
Admission for each of the junior and senior games is $8 per person. A double-admission discount is available for $12 per person, which grants you admission to both games. Standard gate prices apply to the minor hockey games.