After four days of drills and fitness testing, try-outs for the 2017–18 Norman Northstars officially wrapped up on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the C.A. Nesbitt arena with an inter-squad match that pitted the top 40 participants against each other.
Once the game ended in a 6–2 victory for the “blue team,” head coach James Buchanan and his staff had the arduous task of whittling down that number to around 25 players, who will make-up the team going into the pre-season.
While the finalized roster list wasn’t available at the time of this publication, Buchanan said there are plenty of spots to fill after losing a sizable chunk of their veterans from last season.
“We’re a little short handed on the defensive side,” he said in a conversation with the Thompson Citizen on Aug. 24. “We only have, potentially, two defensemen coming back. It might only be one. So that’s a little bit of rift right up front, but we got a good group of forwards and we’re looking for them to excel and move into some more senior roles.”
This year’s try-outs started like previous iterations, attracting around 70 to 90 participants who hailed from Thompson and other northern communities such as Flin Flon, Cross Lake, Split Lake, The Pas, Churchill, and Norway House.
But unlike past years, Buchanan and his staff made the decision to extend this selection camp by a single day to give them “a little bit better chance to see these guys up front and make some better informed decisions.”
While most other Manitoba midget AAA hockey teams stretch their try-out schedule to a couple weeks, Buchanan said that just isn’t possible for his staff given the region’s unique geography. However, Buchanan said they are also thinking about the possibility of expanding the selection process into the pre-season, and making a few final cuts before the regular season begins on Sept. 29.
Looking ahead, Buchanan said that he’s still clamouring to score a solid victory against a team from Winnipeg, especially after tallying his first ever point against the Winnipeg Wild in a double-overtime loss last October.
“I’d love to take two points off Winnipeg. They’ve added a third team this year, so we’ll get more kicks at that can,” he said. “Otherwise we look to keep pushing forward with the momentum, build these players up as best we can, and hopefully we can see some results on the scoreboard.”
The first game of the Northstars’ 2017–18 regular season takes place on the road against the debuting Winnipeg Bruins on Sept 29. Their first home game of the year is set for Oct. 6, where they will be taking on the Parkland Rangers at the C.A. Nesbitt arena.