It is always a difficult task starting a new junior hockey franchise and being successful immediately, just ask the Soo Eagles and French River Rapids who were the other two expansion teams this year in the NOJHL. The 3 expansion teams hold the 3 bottom positions in the standings and share the same struggles trying to gain some traction moving forward, as the 3 teams have a total combined 5 points, with French River still looking for their first. The Express are having plenty of highs and lows in their innaugural season as they have had a rough start to the season, with a 1-7 record, but seem to be getting better with every outing. Building a championship team takes many years to develop hockey players, culture, and a fan base, as a majority of all teams have experienced these growing pains in their beginnings and have grown into their own identities today. After the first month of play the Express have had a chance to evaluate the line up and have made some significant player moves to help bolster their blueline as they look to gain some momentum moving forward. Here is a look at the 4 new players for Espanola.
Tyler Wicks is a big gritty 97 defenceman who will make the Express a tougher team to play against. He is a physical presence standing at 6’3″ 225lbs and enjoys working in the corners and clearing a path in front of the net. Last year Tyler played for the Lake Tahoe Blue in the WSHL where he amassed 101 penalty minutes in 16 games. “He is a hard hitting defenceman that other teams will be aware of when he is on the ice. He will help add some stability to our blue line and give us some much needed grit”, stated General Manager Chad Clarke.
Shane Snow is a smooth skating, smart 95 defenceman standing at 5’11” 205lbs and will be expected to lead the charge on the Express blueline. Shane has plenty of Jr.”A” experience as he played for the dominant Soo Thunderbirds in the 2013-14 campaign, as well as a season with the Kemptville 73’s in the CCHL in the 2012-13 season. Shane will be relied upon for all occasions including Power play and penalty kill this year for the Express. “Shane sees the ice very well and is a very good skater” stated co-coach Jason Rapcewicz. “These assets allow him to be a great positional defenceman who will put some points on the board from our backend”, contributed Rapcewicz.
Aaron Beauchamp who will be an answer to a trivia question as the first ever player acquired in a trade by the Espanola Express hockey team. Aaron is a 96 defenceman standing at 6’0″ and 190lbs, who comes to Espanola via trade with the SIJHL power house Fort Francis Lakers. Aaron is another gritty, smooth skating defenceman who handles the puck well and can be dangerous when he leads the rush. Aaron will be expected to quickly become a fan favourite as he enjoys playing a hard hitting physical game when he is on the ice. “Aaron is a no bs type of guy who can move the puck, win battles in the tough spots and insists on playing a physical game”, stated GM Clarke.
Zachary Decontie is a 97 defenceman, standing at 5’11 and 175lbs who hails from Manawaki Quebec. Zach and is another smooth skating smart defnceman who has great vision and sees the ice very well. Zach is a very tough defender to play against and is hard to beat in a foot race. Zach plays a very smart positional game and will add stability to the blue line night after night. “Zach has the ability to see the ice very well and position himself accordingly, he also has a great offensive side to him and will be a consistent, reliable defenceman for us this season”, stated Rapcewicz.