Don Gagnon has started the process of rebuilding the Jr. A hockey program in Blind River.
The 60-year old Gagnon, a retired steelworker from Sault Ste. Marie, is busy preparing for the 2014-2015 campaign — which will be his first full term as coach and director of hockey operations for the Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Gagnon took over a struggling Blind River outfit midway through the 2013-2014 season and made it respectable.
While Blind River finished in last place in the eight-team NOJHL with a record of 10-42-4, the Beavers showed marked improvement down the stretch under Gagnon and associate coach Dennis Bolton.
Over the final 14 games of the 2013-2014 regular season, the Beavers posted a record of 5-8-1.
In other words, Blind River had as many wins in its last 14 games of the regular season as it did in its first 42 contests.
The Beavers continued their surge into the first round of the playoffs against the first-place Soo Thunderbirds, stealing the opener of the series only to bow out in five games in the best-of-seven set.
Despite finishing a whopping 75 points back of the Thunderbirds during the regular season, Blind River gave the Soo everything it could handle in the playoff round. In all, three of the five games were decided by one goal.
At any rate, having conducted a recent spring tryout camp, the Beavers have committed to pair of 19-year old forwards from Michigan for the 2014-2015 season.
The new Beavers are Jeremy Joyce and Chris Corgan.
Joyce, a smooth-skating, 6-foot, 160 pounder, had 21 goals and 57 points while playing for Reeths-Puffer high school in Muskegon in 2013-2014.
Corgan, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-1, 185 pounder who played for Aquinas College in Grand Rapids in 2013-2014.
“Jeremy has a great passion for the game and will help our offence. Chris is a hard-worker who plays the 200-foot game and is extremely good in all zones. He will add speed up front. The Beavers are happy to have added these two players as they fit the parameters of what we are striving for going forward, which is passion and hard work,” Gagnon told HockeyNewsNorth.com.
Gagnon, a veteran of many years of coaching at the junior and minor hockey levels, is intent on bringing what he calls a “new look” to Blind River for the 2014-2015 season.
“We are looking forward to this coming season with a new look and bringing some exciting hockey back to Blind River. Blind River has very passionate fans and they deserve to have a passionate and competitive team to watch play,” said Gagnon.
Photo by Ray Makela