By Josh Howald
The Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs won a pair of exhibition preseason games last week, and more importantly, have signed a good portion of their roster for the upcoming season.
New head coach Steve Stepaniak said Monday morning that the team has had a good training camp so far, and that the Bulldogs have signed 16 players to cards for the 2014-15 season, including 11 players returning from last year's squad.
"I would think we will be making decisions on the last few roster spots after Thursday's game against Mount Forest and Monday's game in Dorchester," said Stepaniak.
That means the team should be all but set prior to the preseason tournament that Kincardine will host on Sept. 6. Kincardine defeated the Hanover Barons twice last week in exhibition Junior C action - Tuesday night in Ayton and Thursday night at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine.
The list of returning players is highlighted by goaltender Mitch Campbell and forwards Shawn Moore, Gerrit Satosek and Dylan Hnatko. Moore, from Goderich, had 12 goals and 19 helpers last year in 31 games with the Bulldogs to finish third in team scoring. Satosek had just seven points last year, but the Kincardine native is among the league's hardest working players and will be a go-to-guy on both the penalty kill and in the face-off circle. Hnatko, meanwhile, was a late season acquisition from the Hanover Barons who scored five times and had 12 points in nine playoff games for Kincardine.
Other returning players to be signed by Kincardine are forwards Sam Feagan (10-14-24), from Goderich, and Lucknow's Chad Simpson (7-6-13). Kincardine's back end is in good shape, with assistant captain Mike Smailes returning to the fray. The Ayton native had two goals and nine points last year, and is be joined by Lucas Johnson, another late season pick-up from last year. The Elmwood native joins Kincardine's Matt Baker (3-8-11) and Ripley's Carter Strachan (3-8-11) on the blue line, as well as Blyth's Colin Whitfield (1-2-3).
New signings include two local players who have played for Stepaniak before at the midget level. Mike Osadca, a big, smart defenceman, should shore up the blue line, while Derrick Bernath adds some speed and creativity up front. Also signed to cards for this season are Ben Watson, Kyler Jones and Patrick Wiejak. Watson played for the Owen Sound midgets last season, while Jones skated for the Grey-Bruce AAA Highlanders. Wiejak, meanwhile, played midget AAA hockey in Mississauga.
As mentioned, the Bulldogs will host an exhibition tournament on Saturday, Sept. 6. The first game will feature Kincardine and the Stayner Siskins at noon. The Exeter Hawks and the defending Western Junior C League champs from Wingham will take the ice next for a 1:45 p.m. start, followed by a 5 p.m. game between Wingham and Stayner. The final game of the day will feature Kincardine and Exeter at 6:45 p.m.