A season goal for the PJHL club as always is making the division final
September 17, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER, Ont. - It is the annual preseason goal in Dorchester.
Since it was missed the past two seasons, the Dorchester Dolphins are hungrier, perhaps more than ever in the club's 10 year existence, to return to the final, of the Provincial Junior Hockey League Yeck Division.
Last season, one greatly affected by the COVID pandemic, the Dolphins were eliminated by the Thamesford Trojans for the second consecutive season (2021 was cancelled).
Dorchester had been to eight consecutive finals, winning three times, the last title in 2017.
"We look pretty good and should be able to compete," said Dolphins' GM and head coach Mark Steele. "We hope to reach the final. That's the ultimate goal."
The Dolphins have a solid nucleus returning, including Dylan Vandersleen, now team captain, who had 23 points in 27 games, Jakob Marche, last season's top scorer with 31 points in 29 games, forwards Josh Short (13 goals, 27 points in 24 games), Curtis Nogueira and Isaac Sturgeon, defencemen Nick Andrews and Ethan Whitmore and goalie Jackson Mailloux.
Over the summer, the Dolphins added three players with Junior B experience, forward Paterson MacNair, who played with the St. Thomas Stars last season and defencemen Jordan Daer and Jack Uniac.
"By adding those guys from B, that first pass is on the tape and we can transition better," said Steele. "It gives the other defenceman confidence as well, when we have guys with a little more experience and composure."
Last season, Daer, 20, played for the St. Marys Lincolns, including 12 playoff games, while Uniac, a six-foot-four inch 18-year old, suited up for 25 games with the Komoka Kings.
"In the first 10 games, we want to be over .500 and starting to gel as a team with the new guys that we picked up. Then just build from that first 10," Steele said. "We'll do system work, power play, penalty kill, the normal stuff. We've only had two practises and it'll take a little time for everyone to understand the systems."
New faces include 18-year old defencemen Cole Smale and Tyler Taplay. Forwards Jarrett Humphries and Eugene Spanier, played a handful of games for the 'Phins last season.
The Dolphins continue their tradition of having hometown players, with seven on the opening game lineup. Nogueira, Andrews, Marche, forwards Logan Corbeil, Austin Connors and Bryce Darville, all hail from Dorchester. Vandersleen is from Aylmer.
Chris Masse returns as assistant coach, with trainers Mark Somers and Garry Spurgeon. Former Dolphins' player, Zach Robertson, has been added to the bench.
Dolphins win season opener
The Dolphins opened the 2022-23 season at home, shutting out the Petrolia Flyers, 7-0, Friday.
MacNair and Nogueira both scored twice, with Corbeil, Marche and Connors, netting singles. Bryce Darville picked up two assists. Jackson made 16 saves for the shutout.
The home side fired 69 shots at the Flyers' net.
"For our first game as a team we played well," Steele said. "The shots were what we strived to get. We're never to going to get 60 every game, but we're (coaches) telling them to shoot more. That's one thing that we were happy to see. We were shooting the puck more then we had in preseason."
Paterson, Marche and Short, combined for three goals and two assists.
"That'll be a good line this year," said Steele. "For the score, it was great, but we still have to clean up our own zone. They had three golden opportunities and if it wasn't for Jackson, the score could changed early."
It was a welcoming result for Vandersleen's first game as team captain.
"Everybody wanted to play and everybody was
working hard. We had a lot shots tonight. Everybody was putting pucks on net. It
was quite something," Vandersleen said.
"I want everybody to have fun, at the end of the day. We have a good group of guys here and have a real opportunity to do something fun. As long as we get it from everybody every night, we should be good. We have to keep the effort up and don't get out worked. That's the biggest thing."
Vandersleen faces his former team, the Aylmer Spitfires, for the first time Sunday. The Spitfires took a one year hiatus last season.
"I'm excited to be back playing in my hometown. I have lots of family coming to watch," said Vandersleen.
The 21-year old doesn't believe any players remain with the Spitfires from his time (2018-19 and 2019-20) with the team and the club has new management and coaches. A cousin does currently play for Aylmer.
"May have to give him a little whack," laughed Vandersleen.
Petrolia moves over from the PJHL Stobbs division, bringing the number of teams in the Yeck to nine, with the return of Aylmer. North Middlesex, the team to beat, predicts coach Steele, Exeter, Thamesford, Mt. Brydges, Lucan and Port Stanley, round out the field.
The PJHL features 60 teams across the province from Essex, Lakeshore and Amherstburg in the south west to Napanee, Picton and Amherstview in the east to Midland, Huntsville and Penetang, in the Georgian Bay area.
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