THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Things are continuing to look up for the English River Miners in the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
The club’s fortunes have turned around since the arrival of Derek Sweet-Coulter as the Miners’ head coach and general manager and his efforts earned him a new three-year contract extension over the summer to remain at the helm of the club.
Coming off their first-ever appearance in the Bill Salonen Cup finals last season, English River will look to advance even farther in 2017-18.
Sweet-Coulter’s work with the organization has also not gone unnoticed at the national level as he was recently named an assistant coach by Hockey Canada, in conjunction with the Canadian Junior Hockey League, for Team Canada West at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge this December in Nova Scotia.
A solid exhibition slate saw the squad go unbeaten and they’ll look to carry that into their season opener Friday as the host the defending league title holder, the Dryden GM Ice Dogs, in a 7:30 p.m. start at Cochenour Arena.
Here’s some thoughts from the Miners’ bench boss on his team and more in this the third of six SIJHL preseason Q&A sessions.
SIJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2017-18 season?
DEREK SWEET-COULTER: To win a SIJHL championship and earn a berth in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup.
SIJHL: What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen from the team so far and what do you expect to see throughout the season?
DSC: We want to be a hard working group that never gives up. We also look to compete hard every night.
SIJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?
DSC: Dante Raposo was over a point-per game last season. Michael Di Lullo as a rookie had 42 points and 16 goals while Jared Janke scored 11 times and assisted on 13 more in 30 games. On defence, Dwayne Auger was second in points from our blueline and his 12 goals were the second-most of any D-man in the league.
SIJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with early on?
DSC: A ’99 forward, Ethan Wong, played AAA midget in Alberta and had 29 points in 34 games as a 16-year-old. He’s a dynamic player with a high level of skill and hockey awareness in all areas of the game. Bryan Weber is a ’99 D from Calgary and is solid in all areas of the game. He’s a very intelligent hockey player and is 6’3”. ‘97 D Kyle Rosolowski is from Chestermere, Alta., and is big and powerful. At 6’2”, 205 lbs Kyle is in his first year of Junior “A” hockey but with over 100 games of junior experience in the KIJHL. He will be leaned on heavily just like any other veteran on the team. He picked up 22 points last season in 41 regulars season games. He will be relied on in big situations for us right away especially on the power-play.
SIJHL: What style of play do you expect to instill into the club?
DSC: We want to be fast and physical and never give up in all situations.
SIJHL: How does it feel being named to the Canada West coaching staff for upcoming World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia this December?
DSC: I’m extremely humbled to have been selected by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League and I can’t wait to get started. I’d also like to thank the entire English River Miners organization and the SIJHL for allowing me to develop as a person and coach over the last three seasons.
SIJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season?
DSC: To continue developing our players for the next level and beyond and to win a SIJHL championship.
SIJHL: How will you look to build around the experience the team had last season by advancing to the Bill Salonen Cup finals for the first time?
DSC: We have 10 players back from last season and we expect the new guys to follow our veterans who are tasked with being the caretakers of our “HIC” culture. Our veterans will be sharing their experiences from last season with our new guys and bringing them along every day. Bottom line we weren’t good enough last season and this season we have to prove that we are ready to make that next step. Our guys know the only way to get there is through hard work, discipline and playing for each other. Our guys expect to win every game and they welcome that pressure. You can’t teach experience which is something we now have. Now it’s time to get to work and make sure we use that experience to our advantage and don’t take anything for granted. For us it’s the same old we have to put our hard hats on and our work boots and earns it every day and gets better every day. We also need to continue to be good people who always do the right thing on and off the ice. It’s an exciting year for everyone and our organization looks forward to the challenges and triumphs that awaits.
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