TRURO - It's almost like Christmas for Shawn Evans.
The head coach and general manager of the Truro Bearcats finally gets to bring all the pieces to the puzzle he's collected in the off season under one roof as the Bearcats kick off training camp Saturday.
"It's a really busy time," Evans, who has been running his Hub Hockey Skills camp all week, said. "Some of the guys are already in town. We've got a few new guys we've recruited over the summer and some returning guys and some young players who are coming in, so it should be a good camp."
Camp gets underway with a fitness test at the TAAC Grounds at 2 p.m. before on-ice work is held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at RECC. A pair of on-ice sessions are also slated for noon to 1:50 p.m. and 7 to 8:50 p.m. on Sunday.
Truro starts the preseason on Aug. 29 when the Amherst Ramblers visit, before the regular season opener Sept. 13 in Campbellton against the Tigers.
This season, the Bearcats are looking to defend their Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian junior A championship, which carried the team to its first appearance at the national championship tournament in Summerside.
With 11 players eligible to return to the organization, there will be several roster spots up for grabs as the Bearcats lost nine players - Shayne Campbell, Kyle Morrison, Travis Moore, Dylan McGuigan, Patrick Downe, Adam Guy, Zach Evans-Renaud, Travis Fernley and Grant West - to graduation last season.
Also, forward Jordan Coccimiglio will not be back as he is attending Queens University this fall, and forward Alex Hazlehurst, who was sidelined with a concussion throughout his rookie postseason, also missing the Fred Page and Royal Bank Cups, has asked to be traded. Defenceman Mitchel Scott, a Bible Hill resident, is also pursuing an education away from the rink.
"We lost three good defencemen," Evans said of his blueline corps.
But he addressed it over the summer by acquiring 19-year-old Jordan MacNaughton, who split last season between the OHL's Windsor Spitfires and the Swan Valley Stampeders on the Manitoba Junior Hockey League circuit. The five-foot-10, 189-pound native of Komoka, Ont., collected four assists in 36 appearances in Windsor before netting seven points (1G, 6A) in 14 games in Swan Valley.
Evans has also lured 20-year-old Daniel Poliziani, a Burlington, Ont., native, to the Hubtown, after a pair of seasons on the Guelph Storm blueline. In 59 games last season, the five-foot-eight, 169-pounder scored two goals and added 11 assists.
"Those kinds of guys are not easy to get and they should be good, solid defencemen for us," Evans said.
Up front, 18-year-old Brandon Bazinet has joined the Bearcats from the Northern Ontario league's Blind River Beavers. Bazinet, a five-foot-nine, 160 pound native of Val Caron, Ont., was named the league's best defensive forward last season with 44 points (13G, 31A) in 46 games.
Cole Hawes, a former Bearcats forward who split last season between the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Phoenix and Drummondville Voltigeurs, has also committed to the Bearcats. Hawes, a 20-year-old who stands five-foot-10 and weighs 170 pounds, recorded 43 points in 62 games last year.
There will also be a 14-year-old taking part in camp, as Oromocto resident Johnny Penney tests the junior A waters. He played for his high school squad last season.
Evans said he'll be looking for the returning players to take on a leading role in camp.
"We expect a lot from our returning players," he said. "They got some valuable experience last year and I hope it helps those guys come back as better players."
NOTE: Forward Tyler Morrison is the only Bearcats member still at a major junior camp. The 19-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., is still working out with the OHL's Belleville Bulls. The team's camp wraps up next week.
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Players eligible to return
Amherst vs. Truro, RECC, 7 p.m.
Truro vs. Amherst, Amherst, 7 p.m.
Truro vs. Pictou County, New Glasgow, 7 p.m.
Truro vs. Campbellton, Campbellton, 7:30 p.m.
Amherst vs. Truro, 7 p.m.