After a tough year in 2016-17, the Nipissing Lakers men’s hockey team is looking to turn things around and they’re looking to do it with a veteran leadership group.
The Lakers handed out their letters recently, naming fourth-year forward Erik Robichaud and steady veteran defenceman Sam Gleason co-captains, as well as handing out an ‘A’ to forward and sniper Colin Campbell.
The three will make up the official leaders of the team, however, with a large number of players wearing letters throughout their junior career, the team shouldn’t have any issues when it comes to someone stepping up.
Lakers head coach Mike McParland likes what he sees from the players that will wear a letter this year.
“We are very pleased to have our leaders in place on our team for the upcoming season. We have chosen three very good players who have grown here in our program and embraced the University and the city,” he said.
“We had a number of very good candidates this year that were also deserving of a letter, but decided on these three for this season. We would still like to add one more ‘A’ to round out our leadership group.”
Robichaud, a skilled forward who is known for his playmaking has been a solid contributor for the team over his tenure with the Lakers.
Despite having a down year in ’16-17, Robichaud has managed 25 goals and 29 points, good for 54 points in 81 games over his career in blue and green.
In his rookie year, he was named to the OUA All-Rookie team and he’s finished in the top three of team scoring each season, including leading the team in 2015-16.
Born in Timmins, ON, Robichaud spent some time in the NOJHL, QMJHL and OHL before making his way to the Lakers.
Gleason, in his fourth season with the Lakers has done a nice job of acting as a shutdown blueliner who plays a simple game, but is effective in his own end and can contribute in the offensive end as well.
Despite just nine points in his career with the Lakers, Gleason does a good job of holding the blueline and helping create chances for teammates.
Gleason made his way to the Lakers after a five-year career with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, where is was captain for the last two.
He was also a member of the RBC Cup-winning team in 2011.
With the graduation of a few defenceman, Gleason’s role and minutes are likely to increase this year.
Joining Robichaud and Gleason wearing a letter is Campbell, a player that has put up points since joining the Lakers and will look to make it four straight seasons of 10-plus goals.
Campbell has scored 36 goals, added 19 assists and 55 points in 80 games with the Lakers in three complete seasons.
A point producer his whole career, Campbell had an impressive career with the Yarmouth Mariners, where he finished with 245 points in 203 games.
He also suited up for the Saint John Sea Dogs for a handful of games.
In his final season of junior hockey, the Bateston, NS native wore the captain’s ‘C’ for the Mariners.
Campbell has increased his goal production by two each season, scoring 10 goals in Year 1 and improving to 12 and 14 the next two seasons.
Robichaud and Gleason will alternate wearing the ‘C’ at home and away, then switch at Christmas, while the player not wearing the captaincy, will have an ‘A’ on their jerseys.
Campbell will act as a permanent assistant all year long.
Additions to the Coaching Staff
The Lakers are also welcoming back a familiar face, as the new assistant coach is Kevin Vescio.
Vescio had been an assistant in the early years of the program, stepped away for a few years, but with the departure of Richard Rochefort, Vescio has rejoined the team.
The Thunder Bay, ON native, spent four seasons with the North Bay Centennials, recording 130 points in 245 games.
He was also selected in the 1983 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders.
His son Payton, is a highly regarded prospect, who was drafted in the last OHL Entry Draft, which took place last April.
Another addition to the coaching staff is goaltending coach, Dan Spence.
Spence is a familiar face as well, having played three seasons with the Lakers from 2010-11 to 2012-13, before turning pro in Finland.
He was named the Eastern Conference top goaltender in the 2012-13, as well as Lakers MVP.
Spence joined the Lakers from the Mount Royal Cougars, after spending four seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL and one with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting.
He's also spent time in the ECHL with five different teams.
He will work with the quartet of goalies the Lakers still have on their roster, hoping to improve the team’s play in the crease and help the team reach the post-season once again.
“We are very pleased to have Kevin Vescio back with us, as Richard Rochefort stepped down to work more with his son's team,” McParland added.
“Dan Spence is back with us as well, the one-time goalie of the conference should bring in some new ideas for our very good goaltending group.”