TRURO - The Cobequid Cougars drop the puck on a new season Saturday and couldn't be happier.
"Players are anxious to get going with the games," said CEC coach Jeff Hazelton. "They're tired of practicing and are really looking forward to (today)."
The Cougars travel to Port Hood to meet Dalbrae Academy at noon in the season opener for both teams in the expanded Northern Nova Scotia High School Hockey League.
Cobequid plays its home opener on Monday against the Hants East Tigers (Colchester Legion Stadium, 7 p.m.)
The Cougars are looking for a bounce-back season after posting a 10-30-3 overall record last year and an early exit from Division 1 playoffs.
This year's team is build for speed, said Hazelton, whose 19-player roster includes 11 returnees.
"I really like our team speed. I think it's one of the fastest teams we've had, top to bottom, since we started this six years ago," he said. "I'm really optimistic in our ability to get back to provincials this year."
Returning to the Cougars are six forwards, three defencemen and goaltenders Sebastien Gibson and Blake Meech. Hazelton said other key players include defenceman Tristen Clark and forwards Brady Meech and Mitchell LeBlanc, who have major midget experience.
"They bring good speed and their game complements what we've already got," he said.
The Cougars will play a 24-game regular season schedule in an eight-team league - up three teams from last season.
The Cougars are thrilled to have solidified a regular home ice-time for the season - Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the stadium. In past years, ice-time availability was an issue, but with the new Rath Eastlink Community Centre, the team was able to lock down a set time at the old Truro arena.
"This is what we've been wanting since we brought the team back six years ago," Hazelton said. "It's great to have it. The stadium and town staff have always tried to accomodate us, so we are definitely, as a group, relieved to have a set ice time."
Northern Nova Scotia High School Hockey League
- Teams: Cobequid, North Nova, Northumberland, Hants East, Dr. J.H. Gillis, Amherst, Dalbrae, SAERC.
- Schedule: 24 games - 12 home, 12 away. Order of finish determines seeding for regional playdowns.
- Puck drop: CEC visits Dalbrae in Port Hood today at noon. Cougars will play home opener Monday vs. Hants East at the stadium at 7 p.m.
Coaches: Jeff Hazelton, Vince MacCormack, A.J. Manuel, Mike O'Neil, Chris Richards
Manager: Steve Bentley