Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
This year’s Provincial Junior Hockey League season has the Picton Pirates steering in the right direction.
A year earlier, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the franchise when Jason Parks stepped in as general manager and hired Kyle Hawkins-Schulz as the club’s new coach during the off-season.
“Last year we sort of took it on as trying to save the franchise because it was a couple weeks away from packing up and leaving town,” Parks recalled. “The executive’s back with a little more energy this year. Without COVID restrictions it’s going to be easier for people to get to the rink and come see games.”
Now with last season behind them – which was a successful one considering the early challenges – and the franchise more stable, Parks and Hawkins-Schulz can put more of their own stamp on the team.
Some key players are gone, including Devin Morrison, Nate Boomhower, Noah Brant, Derrick Vos, Cole Lavender and goaltender Nolan Lane.
“I think overall we want to go a little bit younger this year and really try to make our own imprint on the team and the organization,” Parks said.
That said, the Pirates will certainly be relying on the skill and leadership of veterans like new captain Landon McLellan as well as Jack Dow and defenceman Hunter Matthysse.
Parks said it’s important the development of players continues to be a key priority for the organization. Lane, who signed with Fort Erie of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, is a great example.
“We’re over the moon because as much as we’re challenging for Schmalz Cups and division championships, we’re still going at this as a development-first type team so for a kid that never played triple-A coming up and played for the County Kings and then was our rookie of the year here posting 11 wins to make the jump to junior B is pretty significant,” Parks said. “It just cements the attitude we have here about developing guys.”
Picton will have a new goalie tandem this season consisting of Belleville’s Brady Spry and Trenton’s Brock Sallans.
“Brady Spry has the tools to be one of the best goalies in the division and we’re excited to have him. He came to us through the connection we have with the Wellington Dukes and Brady will be an option as an affiliate player should any of Wellington’s goalies go down with an injury,” Parks said. “Brock Sallans hasn’t played in a awhile, but was part of some great Quinte West Golden Hawks minor teams and we’re hopeful to see if he can regain that form.”
Meanwhile, the Pirates acquired defenceman Rheydan McCoy from the Napanee Raiders. He brings the experience of winning the PJHL’s Tod Division title with the Raiders last season and certainly fills a void on the Picton blueline.
“With the graduation of Cole Lavender to the Wellington Dukes, we needed to pick up a left-handed shooting defenceman that could fit in the top four immediately and Rheydan McCoy fits that bill and more,” Parks said. “His skating is amongst the best in the Tod and he can log minutes immediately in Picton, something he was not going to be able to do in Napanee.”
Parks said coach Hawkins-Schulz is looking forward to developing players over multiple seasons and added County native Rick Van Vlack and former Pirate Mitch Burke to the staff.
“Kyle’s rounded out his staff quite well and we’re excited about that,” the GM remarked.
Important to note, the Pirates are counting on support from the Quinte and Prince Edward County communities to keep moving ahead.
“We’re still a community-run organization. There’s nobody backstopping us. We have to go out and get the sponsorship,” Parks said. “It’s never easy, but we appreciate our sponsors and appreciate anybody who might want to get involved and support this level of hockey because this is grassroots, this is kids trying to develop, this is kids trying to play out their last couple years. All roads seem to meet here so we’re just happy to provide them the opportunity.”
PIRATES 2022-23 HOME SCHEDULE
Thursday, Sept. 22: Amherstview 4 Picton 2
Thursday, Sept. 29: Napanee 6 Picton 3
Thursday, Oct. 6: Picton 8 Frankford 4
Thursday, Oct. 20: Port Hope at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 3: Napanee at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 10: Amherstview at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 17: Campbellford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 24: Port Hope at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 1: Napanee at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 8: Frankford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 22: Amherstview at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 5: Napanee at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 12: Amherstview at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 14: Frankford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 19: Campbellford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 26: Port Hope at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 2: Port Hope at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 9: Frankford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 16: Campbellford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 23: Campbellford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26: Frankford at Picton, 7:30 p.m.