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Newmarket Hurricanes Head Coach Justin Peca Speaks With TJHN’s Sam Laskaris

Justin Peca has been down this road before.

And that’s why the head coach of the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Newmarket Hurricanes is not overly concerned he has to revamp the club’s roster.

“It looks like we have just six guys coming back,” Peca said. “We’re going to have a whole new team again.”

Peca, who is entering his second season with the Hurricanes, was in a similar situation last year – he inherited a squad that required a massive makeover.

Following a somewhat successful season, Newmarket’s team a year ago got on a roll and enjoyed a rather lengthy post-season. In fact, it came up just one game shy of winning the OJHL championship. The St. Michael’s Buzzers captured the league crown, thanks to a 3-1 triumph over Newmarket in the decisive Game 7 in the championship series.

Peca would obviously love to see the Hurricanes advance to the league final once again this coming season.

“That’s what we play for,” said Peca, a cousin of former NHLer Michael Peca, who is now the coach/GM of the OJHL’s Buffalo Jr. Sabres.  “I hope that’s what the kids want. That’s what I want.”

Newmarket’s roster for the 2013-14 campaign will be considerably different than the one Peca had originally envisioned.

Several players he thought were returning to the club have either signed Ontario Hockey League deals or will pursue their university educations.

This list includes Matthew Wintjes, who was one of the league’s top goalies last year.

“He lucked out and signed with Michigan Tech several weeks after our season was over,” Peca said. “We thought he was coming back because he didn’t have (a scholarship offer) in his back pocket right away.”

The Hurricanes are looking for a pair of new puckstoppers.

One of their possible goalies, 20-year-old Jake Danson, has a bit of league experience. Danson, who played eight games with the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots last season, is one of four goalies that will attend the Hurricanes’ main training camp, which opens Aug. 24. Danson also appeared in a dozen contests last season with the Selkirk Steelers, members of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Meanwhile, Newmarket has just one returning blueliner, Jacob Piltzmaker. But he only played five regular season contests last year due to injuries.

“We’re quite green on the D,”

Peca said. The Hurricanes though have made a pair of off-season acquisitions, which Peca is hoping helps to strengthen his club. Newmarket acquired 20-year-old defenceman Shaquille Hickey from the Whitby Fury and forward Dylan Wallace, who is entering his third OJHL season, via the Aurora Tigers.

“I think they will help us quite a bit,” Peca said of the newcomers. “I’m hoping those guys will carry a bit of the load.”

Peca said he also learned from last year not to worry about the possibility of having a rebuilt squad get off to a slow start. A year ago Newmarket’s early-season successes included road victories versus the Kingston Voyageurs, Trenton Golden Hawks and Wellington Dukes.

“Those are three tough barns to win in,” Peca said. That success proved to be contagious. “That sure gave the young guys a push,” he added. “Once the kids saw that, they realized they could do it again.”

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