By Darryl G. Smart
For the last several years Mike Walker has stood beside Mike Tobin on the Port Dover Sailors bench and in the coach’s room, collaborating and learning from a guy that’s pretty much seen it all. Not too long ago, Tobin passed the torch to his good friend, and Walker went with it.
And in his first two Provincial Junior Hockey League Bloomfield Division games as the Sailors new head coach, Walker has a 2-0 record after opening weekend.
“I am really enjoying it so far,” Walker said. “We as a coaching staff seem to all be passionate and clicking as if we were in the game ourselves. I think from long chats and following closely to what Mike (Tobin) has shown me (personally) that the Sailors can be very successful.”
Walker, who is also the general manager, is joined by returning assistant coach Shayne Leith and Sean Ebdon, who is on board with the Sailors after a stint with the Norwich Merchants.
Tobin is still present when he can after taking a coaching job with the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Caledonia Corvairs. He is now the Director of Player Personnel.
On Saturday night, the Sailors hit the road to face Highway 6 rivals, the Hagersville Hawks and scored an impressive 8-4 victory.
The Sailors started strong with four goals in the first period from Nick D’Agostino, Michael Vanacker, Matt Heilema, and Graham Watson.
The Sailors dominated the second period as well, scoring three more goals on 17 shots. This time David Palmer, Ben Mason and Reid Smith bulged the twine. Connor Stirling finally gave the Hawks a response late in the frame.
Isaac Macauley added one more goal for the Sailors in the third period, before Brendan Sullivan, Matt McKeraghan and Stirling scored to inch the Hawks to within four.
Eric Lorenz got the win, making 30 stops, while Nathan Butler took the loss in a 32 save effort.
Sunday in the home opener, the Sailors got three goals from D’Agostino to lead the way in a 5-2 win over the Dunnville Mudcats.
After Noah Bourdon got the Mudcats out to a lead midway through the first period, D’Agostino scored his first goal of the afternoon.
He added his second goal 45 seconds into the second period, while Watson added another at the midway point.
In the third period, D’Agostino struck again, while Heilema added some insurance. Harrison Reinhardt responded for the Mudcats.
Otterville’s Ben Serrador got the win for the Sailors, while Austin Davison took the loss.
“We really went into opening weekend not really knowing much about how we were going to be,” Walker said. “It was such a fresh start with only six returning players from pre covid.”
Despite the unknown, Walker likes what he sees.
“I think a major takeaway from the opening weekend would be that we have decent speed up front and that the team is disciplined and able to pay attention to system details,” Walker said.
Friday the Sailors are back in action on the road against the Grimsby Peach Kings at 7:30pm, before returning home Sunday to face the Niagara Riverhawks at 2pm.
The Hawks take on the Riverhawks on the road Thursday at 7:30pm, before hosting the Dundas Blues Saturday at 7:30pm.
The Mudcats hosted its season opener Friday and dropped a 4-1 decision to the Dundas Blues, thanks to JD McNeil.
McNeil owned the Mudcats, scoring all four goals, while Jack MacDonald had the lone Mudcats goal.
The Mudcats host the Glanbrook Rangers Friday at 7:30pm.
A very young Norwich Merchants team is getting a baptism by fire in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Doherty Division.
With eight rookies in the lineup, the Merchants dropped both of its opening games.
Friday in the home opener, the Woodstock Navy Vets came to town and dominated, winning 10-3.
The Merchants got off to a roaring start, with Travis Lamb and Jack Gee giving their young team a lead, before Patrick Klazer responded for the Vets. Evan More regained the two-goal lead for the Merchants, before Griffin Sinden and Kyle Baker tied things up late in the frame.
And that’s about as close as it got, with the Vets scoring seven unanswered goals in the next two periods. Joah Jacksteit led the way with three goals, while Caden Bower, Gabe Costantini, Braeden Nelson, and Sinden all scored goals during the barrage.
The next day the Wellesley Applejacks scored four goals in the second period to sink the Merchants 6-1.
Hayden McLean scored the lone Merchants goal.
Justin McCombs led the Applejacks with two goals, while Connor Bradley, Troy Vandenbussche, Isaiah Katsube, and Austin Cousineau netted one each.
Friday the Merchants host the Hespeler Shamrocks at 8pm, before taking on the Tavistock Braves on the road Saturday at 7:30pm.
The Burford Bulldogs also had a tough start to the PJHL Bloomfield Division season with a pair of losses.
On Friday, the Wellesley Applejacks peppered 63 shots the Bulldogs way in a 13-2 win.
Isaiah Ilao and Jake Phelan scored for the Bulldogs.
Eric Lacey led the Applejacks with a hat trick, with McCombs picking up a pair of goals. Cousineau, Justin Zuber, Alex Hyde, Katsube, Vandenbussche, Owen Lee, Connor Doerbecker and Carson Wickie added one goal each.
In the home opener, the Bulldogs were able to get goals from Thomas Morgan and Derick DaSilva, in a 4-2 loss to the Hespeler Shamrocks.
Kyle Wagner, Matthew Hayward, Tony Tikel, and Braeden Tyler scored for the Shamrocks.
Friday the Bulldogs take on the Woodstock Navy Vets on the road at 7:45pm, and host the New Hamburg Firebirds Saturday at 7:20pm.