Rob Coutts hopes to bring back similar success to St. Thomas.
Monday, August 26, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - Head coach Rob Coutts would love to lead the St. Thomas Stars back to the glory days of his playing career.
A week into training camp of his first year behind the bench of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League club, Coutts brings experience of winning a Sutherland Cup, something he and Stars' new assistant coach, Mike Teeple, did as players with the Stars in 1987.
"It's a different rink, but it's like coming home. We're excited, Mike and myself. It's nice coming back to the team you won with. We hope to can kind of build towards that again," said Coutts. "You don't think about it as you move along, but when the situation came about, I was excited about it. I'm excited to get started."
Drafted by the London Knights in 1984, Coutts also played for the Guelph Platers of the Ontario Hockey League before arriving in St. Thomas in 1986. Following his playing days, Coutts coached in England for 10 years, before most recently head coach with the London Junior Knights, including the minor midget team last season.
Teeple has been Coutt's assistant for the past four seasons. His playing career resume includes two seasons with the St. Thomas Wildcats, of the old Colonial League.
Both former Stars played under coach Skip Cummins.
"For me, playing here when Skip was coaching had a big influence on me. That's the kind of coach I want to be," said Coutts. "I want to be, what they call a player's coach. I don't like to shout and scream. I'll allow them to be themselves. I don't want to turn them into something they're not. As a player you just want to be yourself on the ice."
The Stars are through one week of practices and two exhibition games, both wins in a home and home set against the Komoka Kings, in to the preseason.
"We skated them hard the first two days. We haven't got any systems right now, so we've just put out a few guidelines for them. They've worked hard," Coutts said. "Once we get pared down to our group, we can begin working on things, working on our systems."
A few players will be attending major junior camps starting this week. The coaching staff will continue paring down the roster, filling in needed spots and preparing for the GOJHL season opening weekend. St. Thomas travels to Pelham, to take on Welland, Friday, September 6th and Elmira, Saturday, Sept. 7th.
The Stars host the Leamington Flyers, in their home opener, Friday, September 13th.
"We have our showcase on the sixth, so we're gearing to have some things together (i.e special teams) by then. We'll keep skating them hard and a lot of conditioning," Coutts said. "We skate well. We have a good mobile group. That's a good start. It's about playing smart for us and limiting other team's chances. We're not trying to complicate things. We'll give them as much freedom as we can as far as creativity."
The Stars defeated the Kings, 5-4, on home ice August 23rd and 6-3, at Komoka, August 24th.
Brett Hibbert, Sterling Wolters, Jackson Brown, Brock Trichilo short-handed and Sean Aitken, scored for the Stars in game one. Trichilo had a hat trick in game two and Cole Kimble and Jack Weber, with one each. Wolters picked up two assists.
"We gave them a few tasks to do tonight and I thought at those tasks we were pretty good. Overall I thought we were pretty good," said Coutts, following the win at home.
St. Thomas has a home and home exhibition tilt with the Sarnia Legionnaires this week, starting Tuesday, 7:30 pm. at the Joe.
"We'll take some steps forward and we'll take some steps back at times, but it's not so much where you start, it's where you finish," added Coutts.
Busy off season
Over the summer, the Stars signed five players including Trichilo, a 20-year old forward from Schreiber, Ontario. Over two seasons with the Lambeth Lancers of the Provincial Junior Hockey League, Trichilo had 52 goals and 31 assists in 58 games. He helped the Lancers win the PJHL Yeck Division title in 2018, with eight goals and four assists in 15 games.
St. Thomas native Colton Wiacek joins his hometown junior team, moving up from the Lambton Junior Sting midget AAA team. The 17-year old six-foot one inch winger played 18 games, five in the playoffs, with the Stars last season.
Kolby Poulin is a London Knights draft pick who played with the Clarington Toros midget team last season. The left winger from Bowmanville had 13 goals and 14 assists in 30 regular season games and four goals, two assists over eight playoff games.
Cole Schnittker is a 17-year old London native who spent last season with the Elgin Middlesex AAA major midget team, registering 15 goals and 19 assists in 44 season and playoff games. Schnittker also made seven appearances with the Thamesford Trojans of the PJHL.
A fifth round pick of the London Knights this year, Ethan MacKinnon is a five foot 10 inch 16 year old defenceman who played for the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs last season. The Lambeth resident had three goals and 18 assists over 33 games for the minor midget Chiefs. Over 11 playoff games MacKinnon picked it up, recording three goals and six assists.