For a sports fan, September and October has to be one of the best times of the year. Between the season wrapping with the summer sports and the fall activities getting started, there’s rarely a day where something isn’t happening either at the pro-level or with your local teams.
The North Bay U18 Trappers are about to lace up for their 2022-23 season, starting with a game against the U18 Nickel Capitals in Sudbury on Sunday, October 2.
Trappers Head Coach Doug Sanders says, “We did lose a couple players from last year's U16 team that are going on to play Major Junior, but we still have U18 players that came back that will help fill in those holes. We hope to make a big mark this year on the Great North Midget League.”
Sanders, who coached the U18 Trappers last season, inherits a 2006 birth year age group that is one of the best in the past decade in North Bay with last year's U16 squad saw five players drafted to Ontario Hockey League teams, highlighted by Masen Wray who was selected in the 3rd round by the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Sanders says, “We inherited a good group and we’re looking to build on it. I think once the season gets going, there is going to be a buzz around the city about this team.”
Out of the five names, only Jesse Lefebvre, Battalion 13th round selection, remains with the Trappers.
“I think our team is a big strong team that has a lot of potential, we lost a few key players from the last few years but we brought in some guys that we think can fill up their shoes and succeed in this league. Overall, with the older 2005 birth year boys, our team is looking like a strong fast paced team that can play at any pace or with anyone,” he says.
Sanders says Lefebvre will be part of that group with potential. He says Lefebvre is a “feisty forward with lots of tenacity. To get to the next level, they want to see players who don’t just meet their goals, but excel at them and Jesse is one of those players we enjoy working with on those types of things.”
The team will be Captained by Justin Rousseau, who has already had some live game experience this season, earning a call up with the Powassan Voodoos.
Rousseau says, " I think that we have potential to have a lot of success as a team this season. You look at our lineup from top to bottom, we are extremely deep. I think that most of our 06 players that went undrafted are looking to prove the scouts wrong for passing on them, so I’m really looking forward to not only help them on the ice, but off the ice as well."
Sanders says the reason they named Rousseau Captain was his ability to lead by example. He says, “I coached him in Peewee and ever since then he was a kid that just did the work. Did everything you asked of him. The work ethic on this guy is unbelievable. He’s already a pro, he just needs a couple of looks. He’s not the loudest guy in the room but we picked him as Captain because of what he does on and off the ice. It sets him apart from everybody.”
Outside of Rousseau, the team has had Nate Gravelle, Grayson Bradley, Jacob McGill, Heath Bradley, Cayden Kowal, Davis Anello, Johnny Couch and Caleb Dawson attend Junior A camps. (In fact, Caleb Dawson scored an OT game winner for the Powassan Voodoos). Meantime, Gravelle has joined Rousseau with the Voodoos in the early part of this season.
Gravelle says, “I think the boys are all on the same page and have the same goals in mind, this team is full of depth and ready to do what it takes to get where we want to be. Resiliency and determination are big keys of our game and we’re ready to get back in action October 2nd.”
Lefebvre also got into a couple of games at the Junior A level with the French River Rapids.
Sanders says this shows that the program is growing and they hope that they can continue to see players move on to those upper echelon leagues.
He adds, “We had just about every player get invited to junior camps this year. Most of them went and it’s going to help tremendously. The speed and the physicality at that level just helps the kids realize what they need to do to get to the next level.”
One player that’s primed to make that jump within a few years is goaltender Mike McIvor, a North Bay Battalion drafted and signed player. McIvor will be relied upon in the crease along with big netminder Michael Purkhart for the U18 team this season. McIvor has seen game action in the pre-season with the Battalion and also attended Voodoos training camp.
Sanders says, “He is a very good goalie. We actually have a great goaltending tandem. Bringing on McIvor was a blessing as he is a very solid goalie and we look forward to working with him.”
The Trappers will host their first game of the season on Saturday, October 15th at Memorial Gardens in North Bay.