Story by Jeff Gard
Missing a full season of regular Provincial Junior Hockey League action had an interesting affect on the Campbellford Rebels.
“We managed to get a lot older, but not gain any real game experience,” says Rebels general manager Tyler Revoy. “We had a relatively young group of guys last year mixed in with a few veterans. This year those guys are now veterans despite not actually playing any games in the PJHL.”
Campbellford was able to get some 3-on-3 games against Little Britain and non-contact games against Lakefield, but it wasn’t the same.
That has changed with the return of regular hockey.
“It’s amazing just to get that normalcy back in our lives,” Revoy said.
That doesn’t mean the Rebels are just happy to be back. Revoy, the second-year GM in Campbellford after a number of years in Lakefield, wants to flip the script in the PJHL this season after the Rebels went 1-41-0-2 during the 2019-20 season.
“We need to stick to our game plan, which is a cliche thing to say, but we have to take advantage of the first two trips through the schedule where teams are going to think they’re playing the old Campbellford Rebels and it’s stat night and they’re going to put up 10 goals and are maybe be a little lackadaisical in the defensive zone,” Revoy remarked. “I think the first two trips through the schedule will be really important for us to not only pick up some wins, but really show the league we’re here to play. We’re not going to mess around this year.”
The Rebels have some great returning veteran players to build around including forwards Ethan Salter, Benny Scarr, Ben Krauja and Josh Sainthill, defenceman Andrew Moran and goaltender Eric Martin.
“They’re both returning guys who have a number of years of junior experience under their belt,” Revoy said of Salter and Scarr. “We’re relatively young on the back-end, but Andrew Moran is back for his OA year with us and he’s been a lifelong Campbellford guy that’s played all of his years here.”
Martin returning in net is also key to the Rebels finding success.
“Having our No. 1 goalie back from last year really helps us,” Revoy said. “I know he’s really eager to keep going. Hopefully we can find him the backup that will push him and help him become better, but also set us up for the future.”
Martin previously played for the Port Hope Panthers and Revoy also had him as a goalie in Lakefield before inviting him to Campbellford and he’s come in as expected.
“You could just see the presence in net, the focus, the poise that he has when the situation becomes a little panicky in the crease, he just remains calm, finds the puck and covers it.”
“This year he showed up to camp ready to go. He’s been eager to get on the ice.”
“He’s an older guy and whatever backup we bring in, they’re going to learn a ton from him just the way he prepares for games and the mental focus that he has going into the games.”
Krauja, 19, returns as the team captain.
“He’s a quiet leader and lets his play do the talking. He’s not a big vocal guy, but he will step up and speak if we need something said in the dressing room between periods or before a big game,” Revoy said. “He goes out on the ice and dazzles with what he can do with the puck and put in the back of the net. I know a lot of guys can see his work ethic and demeanour and know if all 18 guys can show up and play like that we’re going to be in a lot of games this year.”
Revoy expects veteran players to be extremely motivated to have a successful season. They will play a big role in the club achieving success.
“They don’t panic when the situation gets too big. They’ve been around the block,” Revoy said. “One thing they haven’t had is a winning culture or a winning season so they want that just as bad as everyone else.”
New players are also expected to play big roles, including forwards Connor MacGregor of Cobourg and Adam Klass from Clarington as well as defenceman Jesse Markov of Cobourg. The Rebels also made a trade in August to acquire defenceman Zach Lavergne from Port Hope in exchange for a player development fee.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have those guys join the core group of guys,” Revoy said.
Leading the players from behind the bench is PJ Michael, who was hired last year as head coach. A former Cobourg Cougars junior A player, Michael went on to coach at the Canadian university level and went on to work with the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League as well as the Profession Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA).
“Hopefully that knowledge he has will transpire down to the guys on the team,” Revoy said.
Revoy believes the parity in the Tod Division for all six teams will be something not seen in many years.
“I think this year you’ll find it will be a lot more competitive with teams the first half of the season feeling each other out and then that back-half jockeying for playoff positions you’ll see the teams start to intensify and there might be playoff atmospheres come January instead of the middle of February,” he said.
Every team will make the playoffs with the top two receiving a bye. Revoy isn’t a huge fan of it as he would rather the top four earn their way in, but the experience this season will be great for the organization and fans.
“It will be nice to have meaningful games back in Campbellford because it’s been a long time and the fans deserve it,” Revoy said.