By Tina Comeau
As the Yarmouth Mariners gear up for the next portion of their season following the MHL’s holiday break, and with the league’s Jan. 10 trade deadline looming, the team is suiting up some familiar faces on its roster.
Back between the pipes will be goaltender Chase Gaudet, who was the Mariners’ backup goalie to Charles Grant last season. Gaudet had been playing with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes.
“He wasn’t happy with his playing time there and they decided to go in a different direction. So we’re very pleased to have Chase back,” says Mariners head coach Laurie Barron.
The Mariners have traded goalie Brock Crossthwaite (who had played only 120 minutes in two games with the Mariners) to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Gaudet, Barron says, is expected to add to – not replace – the Mariners existing goaltending situation, which has seen Travis Wilkins in net in 25 games with a record of 19 wins (including three shutouts) and six losses.
“Wilks is definitely the number one guy, he’s playing himself in the number one position, but I believe in healthy competition,” says Barron.
Gaudet wasn’t expected to be signed in time to play with the Mariners during their road games in Campbellton and Miramichi this weekend, but fans will have an opportunity to see him in Yarmouth as the team has five home games during the month of January, starting with two home games on Jan. 11 and 12 against Miramichi and Truro.
Contacted by the Vanguard, Gaudet says he’s happy to be coming back.
“I'm really excited to be back in Yarmouth, and coming within a goal of winning it all last year just makes we want to help the team to win it all this year,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I have to, to help the team do that.”
The other familiar name and face added to the team is Kyle Campbell, who had been a 2010 number one draft pick for the Mariners. But instead of suiting up with the Mariners then, Campbell ended up going to Quebec, where he started the season with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.
“Then he got traded to Cape Breton and we picked up him at the deadline and he finished that (2010-2011) season with us as a 17-year-old and played extremely well,” says Barron. Last year Campbell again played with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
“And then this year, for some reason, he just wasn’t getting much playing time and decided he wasn’t enjoying the game as much as he should and decided he wanted to come back,” Barron says. “Most of our fans would remember him from when he was 17 and now he’s bigger and stronger and more mature. We’re expecting huge things from him.”
Campbell had played 16 games with the Mariners in the second half of the 2010-2011 season, scoring five goals and four assists. His stats with the Screaming Eagles this season show him as only having one goal this season, compared to 19 points the previous season, but again, Barron says he wasn’t getting as much ice time.
Just as the team is happy to see Campbell returning to the roster, he too is happy to be coming back to Yarmouth.
“I’m extremely excited to be back with Yarmouth, the guys had a strong first half this year and I can't wait to get on the ice with them,” Campbell told the Vanguard. “The fans in Yarmouth are the best in the league and I can't wait to play my first home game in front of them.”
Campbell played his first game back with the Mariners on Jan. 4 in Campbellton and scored a goal, which turned out to be the game winner in the 3-0 contest, at 3:48 into the first period.
With the league’s trade deadline this coming Thursday, Barron told the Vanguard in a Jan. 3 interview that he expects more changes to the Mariners’ roster. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing other Mariners leaving.
“I would say we’re going to more add than subtract,” he says.
Part of this deals with the fact that Connor Donaghey – who had 29 points in 29 games with the Mariners – has been called up to the Q league’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Whether that’s short term or long term remains to be seen, although Barron says Donaghey was told “to bring his stuff” when he was called up.
“We’re really pleased for him if things work out with him in Saint John. We’re here to develop players, so it’s a feather in the cap for him and the organization,” says Barron. “And if he comes back that’s a bonus as well.”
The Mariners had already lost Billy Hartley, who was called up to the Q’s Screaming Eagles in December. At this stage Barron isn’t expecting to see Hartley come back to Yarmouth, which is another loss for the team. The defenceman had five goals and six assists in 17 games with the Mariners this season.
Meanwhile, the Mariners now focus on the task of positioning themselves for the eventual playoffs. Prior to breaking for the holidays the Mariners had recaptured first place in the Eastlink Division with 23 wins and five losses for 47 points, which was two points ahead of Truro.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot,” says Barron. “I think in this league there are three different stages. There is before Christmas and then everybody amps it up a little bit after Christmas and then it goes to another level in the playoffs. So it’s important to us to make sure we’re ready to take that next step.”
Barron says when the team has stumbled this season it’s usually been to teams that are well behind them in the standings, which just goes to show you can’t take any game for granted.
This month sees the Mariners play five of its nine games at home. Next month sees the reverse with four games at home and five on the road.
“We’ve got a tough schedule but I think that will get us battle ready for the playoffs,” Barron says.