By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
Let’s Rock! And why not do it in the home of the NCDC’s newest franchise.
The Rock Springs Grizzlies were co-founded just this year by Darren Naylor and Wes Mussio. The entire Mountain Division is new to the NCDC this year, though the Grizzlies’ division mates are all teams that had histories prior to this year. No matter, the Grizzlies went to work and have liked what they’ve seen, already picking up wins in the preseason against established organizations.
“I feel we’ve surrounded ourselves with some quality people. We will be a four-line, six-defense lunch bucket type team,” said Naylor, who is also the GM and Head Coach of the Grizzlies. “We will be solid in net and on defense and will score by committee.
“One of the main challenges was getting a little bit later of a start in terms of recruitment,” Naylor added. “ A benefit of starting a new team is we will create the culture and not inherit someone else’s team.”
For their Captain, the Grizzlies turned north, putting the letter “C” on the jersey of Sherwood Park, Alberta’s own Will Stewart. It’s his second “C”, as he was also Captain last year for the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“Will will be our captain, [and] we have not decided on alternates as of today,” said Naylor. “In recruiting our team, we choose a lot of players who were Captains or Assistants and also from winning programs.”
The team has a couple additional players coming in with experience from the NOJHL, particularly ‘04 goaltenders Reid Ramsay (Soo Eagles) and Creedon Dyck (Espanola Paper Kings).
A number of players who have impressed early on include goaltender Merik Erickson, who “had a really strong camp” and comes in with Pacific Junior Hockey League as well as some British Columbia Hockey League experience.
On defense, Cutter Lewis “has played well and we see good things coming from him,” after a couple seasons with the Charlotte Rush.
Lewis’ former Indy Jr. Fuel AAA teammate Liam Donovan is a player the Grizzlies expect big things from, and his fellow forward Kaleb Pitman put up great numbers for Northstar Christian Academy and the NorthStar Knights.
The Grizzlies have short of a week left to get their players ready for some tough outings, but they know they have what it takes to win and keep with whatever competition they face, if the preseason is any indication.
“I’m not sure what to really expect. I have been focusing on my team,” said Naylor. “Judging by the exhibition games, I’m expecting a high level of hockey and some very competitive games.”