Brett Tidman is one of a number of veteran forwards returning to the Summit Hyundai Valley midget Wildcats this season. Despite a lot of turnover on defense since last season, with nine veteran forwards and two veteran goalies, new head coach Dan Turner expects his team to be competitive. - File
By John DeCoste
The 2013-2014 Summit Hyundai Valley Midget Wildcats will have quite an act to follow, given that last year’s team played for the TELUS Cup after winning both the provincial and Atlantic Midget AAA championships.
And while they have had a number of holes to fill, particularly on defence, new head coach Dan Turner is confident the 2013-2014 Wildcats will be competitive.
In fact, one of the highest profile changes for the Midget ’Cats has been behind the bench, where Turner, head coach of the Kings Mutual Bantams last season, has taken over from Nick Greenough, who moved up to the new Junior A Wildcats.
“We have nine forwards who played in the league last year, including some talented veterans, and we have two veteran goalies,” Turner said. “Our defence will be young, but they’ll be effective because of how they can move the puck.”
It took a while for the Wildcats to finalize their roster because a number of eligible players were attending Junior A camps. Most have since returned, having picked up invaluable experience trying out at the next level.
The list includes Brett Tidman, who attended the Bridgewater Junior A camp; Makail Parker, who was at the Pictou County Junior A camp; and Lukas Kane, Eli Hughes, Tanner Forrest and Ryan Parker, all of whom were at the Valley Junior A camp.
Michael Dill, another forward, is also back, and the Wildcats have added two more forwards who played in the NSMMHL last season – Alex Rawding, a Greenwood resident who played for the South Shore Mustangs, and Stone Harnish, a South Shore native who also played last season with the Mustangs
In addition, Cody Burghart has joined the team from the Kings Mutual Bantams, and Mitch Rankin played last season with the Bubbas Rays Gulls Bantam AAA team.
Turner confirmed there is “one spot left” at forward. He plans to rotate two affiliated players, Wyatt Stark, formerly of Western Valley Midget AA and Josh MacMillan, formerly of the Kings Mutual Bantams, in that position.
On defence, Bradley Boone is the only returnee from last year’s team. Joining him are Austin Gough, Taylor Brown and Tyler LaPierre, up from the Kings Mutual Bantams; Mitch Singer, who played last year with Avon View High School; and Liam Sullivan, who played during 2012-2013 with the Bantam AAA team in Dartmouth.
In goal, the Wildcats have “a pair of stud goalies” in returnee Michael Pettet, a late cut from the Junior A Wildcats, and Roman Bengert, back from the Truro Junior A camp, who played last year with the Cole Harbour Major Midgets.
“They’re both third-year kids who have proven themselves in this league,” Turner said.
Overall, Turner admitted he is “feeling pretty good” with the players he has. While the Wildcats may not be among the favorites to win the league championship, “we’ll be competitive, right in the mix – a top-half team for sure.”
The Wildcats open the 2013-2104 regular season Sept. 12 with a home game against Newbridge Academy Gladiators from Dartmouth, an 8:15 p.m. start at the Kings Mutual Century Centre.
Prior to the game, the Wildcats will hoist their championship banners from last season.
The ’Cats are back on home ice at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, with Halifax providing the opposition. When the teams met at the Early Bird tournament in Cape Breton, Valley scored a 2-0 victory.