Voyageurs look to build on a tough playoff loss
by Randy Pascal
The Laurentian Voyageurs men's hockey team can look back on three consecutive post-season appearances. Unfortunately, the last two came to an
abrupt end, losing in round one to the top seed in the East in both 2016-2017 (McGill Redmen) and 2015-2016 (UQTR Patriotes).
Ironically, the Voyageurs are looking to build off last year's series loss to McGill, in a sense.
"At the end of the season, we saw what we were capable of and came together as a team," noted defenceman and Blind River native Andrew Tessier.
"We held one another accountable, and believed in ourselves, and got a taste of that winning mentality, and it made all the difference."
In fact, the L.U. lads followed up a 5-4 overtime loss in their season finale to McGill with a 2-1 O/T loss, at home, in game one of their best of three
affair, and were trailing only 2-1 midway through game two when the wheels finally came off. The eighth place Voyageurs had finished the regular season
18 points back of the front-running Redmen.
Still, that sequence of games provided yet another valuable learning tool for the team, as Tessier and his mates deal with the reality of life in the OUA. "There's a
difference in maturity, the guys are older, there's more experience here," noted the former Nickel City Sons' blueliner.
"It's strong, it's fast and it's smart. If you make a mistake, you pay for it, and usually, the puck ends up in your net." In order to take the next
step and return to a mid-divisional ranking, the Voyageurs will need key contributions right across the roster, from returning vets to welcomed newcomers.
Caleb Apperson enters his fifth year of eligibility with almost a hundred games under his belt. The voice of experience is evident, as he shares
his key message for the freshmen who will join the blue and gold this year.
"Coming out of the junior ranks to university, it's different right away, the length of the season, the number of games that we play," he said. "It's
a matter of really emphasizing the importance of each and very game, making sure guys are ready to go every weekend, that's probably the biggest advice I
could give them."
"The things I am focused on this year is to lead by example, set the tone and point them in the right direction for after we leave," Apperson added.
"On the ice, bringing my compete level every night, so that other guys have to match that, and we can go from there."
Sudbury native Tyler Cooper is but one of a handful of new additions to the roster. This, however, will be the first time in five years that he
will actually play in his own backyard, sporting a junior hockey resume that included stops in Mississauga, Alberni Valley, Surrey and Hawkesbury.
"Everyone generally stays home for high school, but I got to go away for a few years of high school," Cooper noted. "I had the opportunity to be away,
and it makes you appreciate how much you like being home."
"I had the experience of playing in different cities, different provinces. I really did want to come home. It makes it a lot easier to come back after
being away for five years." The reality is that the 6'6" defenceman returns home a much different player than when he suited up as a 16 year old with
the Elliot Lake Wildcats back in 2012-2013.
"I'm definitely a lot bigger," Cooper laughed. "With Elliot Lake, I was likely about 175 (pounds). I've gained about forty pounds since then, grown into
my body a lot more. I'm a lot more patient, and I have to thank five years of junior hockey for that, playing in every situation imaginable."
Cooper also carries with him the wisdom of understanding team make-up, entering with very realistic expectations and a sense of what he needs to do to
be successful. "The top four here is very, very solid, the top six is even pretty solid, so if I do get in the lineup, my attributes to stay in the lineup
would be killing penalties, blocking shots, and just being a shut down guy and doing whatever he (coach Craig Duncanson) needs me to do."
"Obviously, I'm not going to play a ton of offensive situations," Cooper continued. "Being sound in my own end, battling hard in front of the net, that
is my game anyways. If I can do that well, I think I will be fine."
The Voyageurs will open their pre-season schedule with a pair of home games on September 16th and 17th, playing host to the Ottawa Gee Gees and
Nipissing Lakers on back to back days.