Sunday, August 12, 2012


With training camp just around the corner, lets get you familiar with some of the new faces that you will see for the Coquitlam Express this coming season.

As with any junior hockey team, there are always key contributors that depart from the previous season for various reasons, trades, age graduation or college commitments.

This season the Express are no different. They will have a strong returning class for this year, but for Head Coach and GM Jon Calvano it's always about re-stocking the cupboard to compliment the returning core he has for this season.

Some of the key faces who are not returning this year include, Captain, leading scorer and Coastal Conference MVP Alex Petan who does have another year of junior hockey eligibility left, but he will be attending Michigan Tech University this fall.

Three defenceman graduated as 20 year olds last season, Rajan Sidhu, Nicholas Wong and Clinton Atkinson. Sidhu and Wong were picked up via trade in the middle of the season last year. Atkinson was instrumental at running the offence from the backend last year with an Express franchise record for points in a season by a defenceman with 59 points.

Another key departure from the backend will be Zach Hodder. He joined the Express about a quarter of the way through the year and was a great compliment to Atkinson's offence as a second wave of an attack. He led all defenceman with 12 goals and was second among blueliners with 33 points in 43 games. Hodder who has played in the WHL with Vancouver, Saskatoon and Prince Albert will be giving the "dub" another crack this season with the Prince Albert Raiders.

Cody Michelle who was a hard nosed physical winger for the Express last season was traded away during the offseason to the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL. He scored 8 goals and 24 points in 40 games last season. 5 of those goals came on the powerplay. He missed a good chunk of the start of the season after suffering a broken jaw courtesy of a Logan Johnston punch in the pre-season. That punch cost the Vees captain the first   20 games of the campaign.

Connor Redmond who played 27 games for the Express last season scoring 3 times will also not be returning.

Here's some of the new faces for the Express this season. Starting on the backend the Express have one familiar face and another new face with previous BCHL experience under their belt.

Mark Begert will be returning to the Express for his second BCHL season this year as a 19 year old. In 2010-11, Begert was just one of 3 players to dress for all 60 games as a 17 year old rookie on the Express blueline. He showed good promise in his rookie season. He scored 4 goals and 11 points that first season. 3 of those goals came on the powerplay.

Begert attended Boston College last season. But he was only able to dress in one game for the Eagles. There is one thing that Begert does have on his resume that very few players in the BCHL have, and that is a NCAA Championship that he won with his former Express teammate Destry Straight. That experience should be valuable heading into Begert's second BCHL season.

19 year old Brayden Pears was picked up from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in an off-season trade. Pears was the future considerations that came the Express way in the deal last December that saw Taylor Love head the other way. Pears has 128 games of BCHL experience under his belt with Powell River, Victoria and Salmon Arm scoring 6 goals and 20 points.

As part of his focus during recruiting for this season, Jon Calvano looked to fill the skill void left behind by the departures of Atkinson and Hodder. He feels he has done that with some of the other new faces on the blueline this season.

Callum Hofford is one player that the Express are very excited to bring into the fold for this season. Coach Calvano described him to me during the off-season as the Alex Kerfoot of defenceman. He was highly sought after by numerous BCHL clubs. He averaged more than a point per game with the Hill Academy Varsity team with 21 goals and 65 points in 62 games. He already has secured himself a college commitment to Northern Michigan University for the fall of 2013.

Another skilled defenceman coming to Coquitlam is Marc Biega. He played Prep School Hockey at Salisbury Academy where he was the captain of his team last season. He scored 6 goals and 36 points in 28 games.

One of the younger faces on the Express blueline this coming season will be 17 year old North Vancouver native Cameron Marks. He did play 2 games last season with the Penticton Vees. He spent most of his season last year with the Vancouver Northwest Giants of the BC Major Midget League. He put up 1 goal and 16 assists in 25 games. Marks already has a post secondary commitment secured to the University of New Hampshire for 2014.

Here are some of the new names you will become familiar with up front for the Express this season.

16 year old Luca Leone will be the youngest face on the Express roster this season. The Vancouver native comes to the Express where he played Midget Hockey last season at Shattuck St. Marys in Minnesota which is renowned for being one of the top hockey schools in the U.S. In 45 games he scored 9 goals and 25 assists for 34 points.

Zach Pryzbek will provide a power forward presence to the Express this season. The 6'3 forward native of St. Catherines Ontario will have a pair of familiar faces as teammates this season having played in the past with Marc Biega and Callum Hofford. Pryzbek played Prep school hockey at Salisbury last season compiling 7 goals and 17 points in 26 games. He will attend Brown University in the fall of 2013. He was ranked 210th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting entering the 2012 NHL draft.

Ever since Jon Calvano took over as Head Coach of the Express in the spring of 2010, he has always included as part of his recruiting class was one of the top scorers of the BC Major Midget League. In 2010 it was Destry Straight who was second in BCMML scoring with 63 points in 39 games. Last year it was Alex Kerfoot who torched the league for 108 points in 38 games. Both would go on to win Coastal Conference rookie of the year honours. Things are no different in 2012. This time it's Adam Rockwood.

The soon to be 17 year old Coquitlam native dipped his toes in the BCHL pool last season playing 4 games with the Express. He also dressed for 3 playoff contests vs. the Powell River Kings. Rockwood is reunited again with Express forward Jace Hennig. They teamed up to light up the BC Major Midget League with the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs until Hennig jumped mid-season to join the Express to fill their 16 year old spot. Rockwood just kept on putting up the points and finished atop of the scoring race with 86 points in 40 games. He would have finished 3rd in league scoring on his 70 assists alone.

And finally the last new face for the Express this season will be between the pipes. Daniel Urbani will be joining his former Vancouver Northeast Chiefs teammates Adam Rockwood and Jace Hennig with the Express this season. Urbani was 9-2-2 with 2.62 GAA last season. His recruitment makes an already sticky sitation just a little stickier. Entering the season the Express have a pair of returning veterans in between the pipes in 20 year olds Cole Huggins and Khaleed Devji. Add it all up, that gives the Express 3 goaltenders in the fold. And I don't recall ever a team carrying a pair of 20 year old goaltenders taking up 2 of the 6, 20 year old spots available.

Those are some of the new faces to keep on eye on when the Express hit the ice for training camp shortly. You add those faces to the strong returning core which includes the likes of Alex Kerfoot, John Siemer, Brady Shaw, Malcom McKinney, Jason Bird, Justin Georgeson among others and it should be very interesting to watch this Express team come together as training camp and the pre-season unfolds. 

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