NOJHL team preseason preview: Cochrane Crunch

SUDBURY, Ont. – Averaging just over 35 wins per season in their first three years in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Cochrane Crunch continue to produce results on the ice.

Under team president, general manager and head coach Ryan Leonard the Cochrane faithful has seen their club sport a 107-44-8-3 overall record in 162 games in their trio of campaigns within the league.

The Crunch will once look to compete for both the NOJHL East and overall league crowns during the regular season as they begin their quest for a playoff title and a berth in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup and beyond.

Cochrane was the busiest of the 12 NOJHL member clubs in the preseason taking to the ice eight times while posting a 4-4 exhibition mark all the while looking to finalize their opening night roster.

Here’s a look at NOJHL team preseason preview No. 10 of 12, which features the Cochrane Crunch.

Head Coach/GM – Ryan Leonard

NOJHL: What are your expectations for the club heading into the 2017-18 season?

RYAN LEONARD: Our Crunch program expectations don’t change year-to-year. Our program dedicates itself each year to be one of family fun and community involvement and to create winners out of everyone who is involved be it the Town of Cochrane, the Schools the minor hockey system. Basically anyone we are connected with. We strive to be one of the top franchises, on and off the ice, in the league. We are a family-run program where my wife and I, along with our daughter, son-in-law and my boy all are involved to make sure that our operation in hockey is running smooth. We have a passion for what we do and we love to see the players move on to the next level. Each year we have six to eight players graduate from our organization and attend NCAA or CIS programs and this is what the real winner is at the end for our Crunch team. We would love to bring championship banner to our program and hopefully this year and maybe beyond.

NOJHL: What you’ve seen from your team heading into the season?

RL: So far on the ice things went well. We wrapped up running hockey school for the youth of the area and got right into practices and games so we have not had a lot of time to concentrate yet on what our task is as a program. We have a lot of talent and again a lot of speed and skill. We look forward to starting to implement our systems as we get going so that we are all on the same page at the same time.

NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?

RL: We have three of four players we expect big things from this year. We’ll have eight to 10 vets in our line up and I expect them to be great leaders both on and off the ice. We will rely on them a lot. On our back end we are looking at Connor Lovie, the NOJHL’S top D last year, to be better than ever. Our goalie situation should be sound with Taylor Unruh getting the starter’s role and rookie Kyle Henderson pushing him for minutes.

NOJHL: Who are some newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with early on?

RL: During exhibition season newcomers Kyle Podwika and Josh Roberts have shown to be in form and also newcomers Noah Bennett and Quinton Maddock also look like they will be among the elite this season.

NOJHL: The organization is known for its recruiting. Describe some of the scouting trips you took in the off-season.

RL: During the off0season we made our way out to B.C., Las Vegas, Chicago, Wisconsin and Toronto. We’ve seen over 800 players and laid ground work to start for next season already as well. During these trips it’s all about the networking and meeting new hockey people. In total we found four players this year who are actually on our roster. Getting out there is what it’s all about.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season?

RL: Our team goal is to be competitive and try and win our division. Going into the regular season we want to get stronger on the boards and make harder first passes.

Preseason results
Aug. 25 vs. Timmins (6-5 OT Win)
Aug. 27 vs. Timmins (4-2 Loss)
Aug. 30 @ Hearst (5-2 Loss)
Sept. 1 vs. Espanola (7-2 Win)
Sept. 2 vs. Kirkland Lake (7-5 Win)
Sept. 2 vs. Kingston (OJHL) (7-3 Loss)
Sept. 3 vs. Kirkland Lake (6-4 Win)
Sept. 3 vs. Kingston (OJHL) (2-1 Loss)

Twitter: @CrunchNOJHL
Facebook: /CochraneCrunch