The Norman Northstars will have a large veteran presence on their team in the 2012-13 Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League season, with at least 12 players returning from last year, seven of whom will be playing their third season together on the team.
Nineteen players were named to the squad at the conclusion of last weekend's tryouts, following the blue-and-white intersquad game, which was won 7-5 by the white squad after a spirited contest that included three goals by each team in the final 20 minutes.
Returning to the Northstars from last year's team are goaltender Aaron Vallance, defencemen Bruce Highway, Boyd Langan and Cory Reid, and forwards Drake Bodie, Tavish and Teagan Quinn, Lodie Ipeelie, Tanner Hepp, Even Akkerman, Steve Goran and Tyrel Charlton. Six of the 12 returnees are from Thompson, with the exception of Ipeelie, from Iqaluit in Nunavut, Reid, from The Pas, and the Quinn brothers, Langan and Akkerman, who all hail from Flin Flon.
Langan, Highway, Akkerman, Reid, Ipeelie, Hepp and Bodie are all entering their third season with the team, having first made the Northstars as 15-year-olds at the start of the 2010-11 season. This group includes four of the team's top five regular season scorers in the 2011-12 season. Bodie was second in goals to Eddie Bayer with 17 and tied Bayer and Highway for the most assists on the team with 22, while Hepp was tied for third in goals with 16 and had 21 assists. Ipeelie was fourth on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists, while Akkerman was fifth with 10 goals and 16 assists. Highway had one goal to go along with his 22 helpers as the Northstars' top-scoring defenceman, while Langan was second is blue liner scoring on the team with four goals and 19 assists. Reid had six goals and nine assists as the third-highest scoring defender. Bodie and Hepp were second and third in playoff scoring for the club, both averaging a point per game in six and five games played respectively. Hepp and Ipeelie led the Northstars with three goals each in the playoffs.
New additions to the roster include five players from Thompson and one each from The Pas and Gillam. The Thompson players are all forwards except for defenceman Jory Ross, who is joined on the team by Myles Bennett, Josh Barnowich, Trent Laycock and Arnell Evans. The other two new roster members include goaltender Luke Penner from The Pas and forward Layne Anderson from Gillam. Bennett appeared with the Northstars in five regular season games last year, recording one assist, while Laycock had a goal in his only game with the team. Evns was scoreless in one appearance with the Northstars last season while Penner played a single game, allowing one goal on 11 shots in 20 minutes of playing time.
The Northstars still have a few roster spots open, which may be filled by blue liners Jordie Valentino, Rick Frechette and Aaron Beauchamp, or forward Brendan Barron, who were unable to attend tryouts because they were at camps with junior teams. If they remain with those junior clubs or don't make the Northstars again, some of the cuts from this past weekend's tryouts could get a second chance.
The quality and quantity of returning players made the tryouts a tough slog for players trying to break in, said Northstars' head coach Stu Cunningham.
"They worked hard to get into the lineup," he said. "It was a hard decision. We let some good players go."
Cunningham was also pleased with the effort he saw in the intersquad game as players tried to leave a lasting impression.
"I believe once you've to it narrowed down to the final 30 kids you can see how good they are," said Cunningham.
The coach also made mention of everybody who helped make the tryouts a success, including the bench coaches and referees who helped out with the scrimmages as well as the Northstars board members and other volunteers who took care of business off the ice.
"I have to thank all the people who put in the hard work," said Cunningham. "There's too many to name."