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LU men's hockey team headed in right direction: Duncanson

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Mar 17, 2014 - 11:53 AM |
Despite a 10-year hiatus from OUA competition, Laurentian Voyageurs' men's hockey coach Craig Duncanson is wasting little time setting his sights on putting together a squad that can compete with the Ontario elite. Supplied

Despite a 10-year hiatus from OUA competition, Laurentian Voyageurs' men's hockey coach Craig Duncanson is wasting little time setting his sights on putting together a squad that can compete with the Ontario elite. Supplied

Despite a 10-year hiatus from OUA competition, Laurentian Voyageurs' men's hockey coach Craig Duncanson is wasting little time setting his sights on putting together a squad that can compete with the Ontario elite.

A record of 5-22-1 will not be acceptable for long.

"We finished with probably fewer wins than I had expected," acknowledged Duncanson following the season. "I think that was a product of us being a little bit youthful, with a lot of players who did not have an appreciation for just how good the league was going to be. Having said that, we competed with a lot of top-10 teams in the country."


A 3-1 start, victories over the University of Toronto, Guelph and Brock, and one-goal losses to the likes of Queen's, Western, Ottawa and Trois-Rivières provided plenty of proof that the program is not all that far off.

"There was a certain learning curve that we had to go through, learning how to play the game on the full 200 feet of ice," said Duncanson. "There were times, in October and November, when it seemed like that curve was insurmountable.

"Through January, we seemed to turn the corner. We were able to keep some really offensively potent teams in check and stay with them for the majority of the game."

Relaunching a program that has been sidelined for a decade is not an easy task. Building some depth will take a few years.

"The nature of university teams, we don't have a junior varsity team, we don't have an affiliate team," said Duncanson candidly.

"We have men competing very hard, and there are going to be injuries. I do prefer that it be a competitive battle to be in the lineup. It wasn't as competitive as I would have liked this year. We did have some extra bodies, but they weren't all eligible to play."

With the red-shirting of incoming transfer students out of the way, Duncanson and staff are looking to build upon a very solid foundation, both on and off the ice. "On more general terms, our biggest accomplishment was establishing a culture of having some dedicated, classy, character men represent the school and represent them well," he said.

"Those kind of men are easy to teach."

Returning a strong core of talent that is likely to include goaltenders Alain Valiquette and Charlie Millen, defencemen Vincent Llorca, Brandon Howes, Adam Glynn and Matt Eddy along with forwards Nick Esposto, Marc-Alain Begin and Danny Paches leaves the LU coaching staff with a definite sense of optimism.

"I think we will have a better appreciation for where we will see the improvement come from when we see these guys on the ice as second-year players," Duncanson said. "Most of our players, this is likely the highest level of hockey that they have ever played.

"That's not the case with every team, but with our team, it was. I'm excited to see where they measure up, a year later, with a year more experience."

Duncanson knows that working their way up the OUA ladder will most likely involve attracting ex-OHL talent to Sudbury.

Yet he is adamant that the incoming talent must provide a positive fit.

"The onus on us and our dressing room, in bringing in some new recruits who have experienced a higher level of hockey, is to bring them in and have them conform to our culture, to be good students and good citizens," he said.

With a full 12-year break between his last foray into the the CIS coaching ranks before his return last fall, Duncanson notes he is even more excited now than he was at the moment of being asked to head up the Laurentian revival.

"I'm just elated with the opportunity here," said the former NHLer. "We are going to have some growing pains, but our main goal was establishing a culture that can make us the envy of plenty of CIS programs.

"We have made some great strides to do that. We now have to make sure that this transcends on the ice and turns into some wins."

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