By Bill Potrecz – September 12, 2023
Port Colborne Sailors head coach/general manager Scott Barnes has one thing on his mind as the Sailors open the 2023/24 Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season at home Friday versus the Fort Erie Meteors.
The Sailors buried themselves with a terrible 1-8 start last season and Barnes is determined to turn that around this year.
“As much as I’m talking about it, the veterans are talking about it,” Barnes said. “They all realize how big of a detriment that can be. We were in catch-up mode right from the start so that’s a real big issue.
“We’ve been talking about it all summer, getting off to a decent start this year. We don’t need to be 8-0, but we need to be near that .500 mark.”
The Sailors managed to dig themselves out of their poor start last season to finish .500 at 24-24-2, but Barnes doesn’t want to go through that again in a division which promises to be very competitive.
“Just looking from where everything stands now, it could be a real even league this year,” Barnes said. “Everyone is going to be pretty decent. I just want to make sure we’re getting better every day. I know it sounds cliche but it’s a steady climb to the playoffs and ideally you’re peaking in February. That’s our goal.”
This year’s version of the Sailors features a solid core of returning forwards, a mix of new and old on the blueline and what Barnes feels are three solid options in goal.
Veteran Tucker Adams returns between the pipes and will share playing time with 16-year-old Isaac Gravelle, a Fenwick native who was selected in the second round by the Oshawa Generals in this summer’s Ontario Hockey League draft. Port Colborne’s Lucas Cardiff-Bilodeau will act as the third goaltender.
“We think we have some really good goaltending,” Barnes said. “Isaac and Tucker can be a real good 1A-1B situation with Lucas to be there when Isaac gets called up to Oshawa. We’re pretty excited about our goaltending.”
On defence, Christian Williams, Jonathan Graves and Carson Trevisani return. Newcomers include 16-year-old Gabe Torso from Mississauga, 19-year-old Justin McMuffin from York and local rookies Tristian Chevalier and Nick Manjert.
“We have three returning guys and a lot of guys who are going to try and get their feet wet in junior hockey. I think we have pretty mobile, two-way guys,” Barnes said of his blueline.
The Sailors have an impressive group of returning veterans led by new captain Dylan Pergentile, Grayson Gare, Liam Wicks, Aiden Cupelli, Ethan Bolibruck, Brendan Grenville, Nathan Kelly and Port Colborne native Sam Tonelli, who returns following a season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Barnes is also high on newcomer PJ Alexander, an 18-year-old Richmond Hill native who played at the U18 AAA level for the Markham Waxers last season.
“I think we’re going to be a team that works hard, is a pretty good skating team. I think we’re going to be able to score by committee and I think we have some really good goaltending,” Barnes said. “I like to say I want my guys to be 200-foot players and I think we have a lot of those guys.
“I know the way I like to play and have my teams play. We have a lot of returning guys who know how I like to play too. In that regard, we’re off to a good start because there’s not as much teaching and getting guys on board as much as we usually have.”
Visit https://www.bpsportsniagara.com for all things sailors this season!