The 2012-2013 CCHL season hasn’t gone as expected for the Cumberland Grads who sit at the bottom of the Yzerman division with 25 points. The Christmas break gives time to review the season so far and determine where they should go during the second half of the season.
The end of last season saw many players finish their Junior A careers for the usual reasons such as age (Bamford, Wild), college (Lough) and the OHL (Beckstead, Walsh). To bolster their lineup, Cumberland was aggressive during the off-season as they held numerous draft picks and made a huge deal with Pembroke to pick up more offense in exchange for Drouin and Harper. The CIH Academy was the favourite source of Grads draftees starting with the 3rd overall pick Martin Lavallée and including Sean Naish and Devan Tremblay. In general, the early stages of the draft seemed to address more pressing concerns for the Grads.
The optimism also came from the high number of players from out of town who made the opening day roster from as far as Labrador (Lavallée) and Utah (David Higgs). This strategy brought the Grads into fairly new territory for a team that usually likes to pick its players from closer to home. When the puck dropped at the start of season showcase, the Grads turned some heads as they almost took the opening game from the Carleton Place Canadians in what would soon become a theme for the year – they end up on the losing side of a tight game.
Yet there were still pieces that needed to come together. Within a few weeks, Silas Neeposh had left the squad for the ‘Q’ leaving the defensive core without much experience. Chris King and Connor Currie had yet to arrive from the Pembroke trade. Injuries to Trevor Packard, Philippe Paquette and Justin Pelock slowed down the team that had rough spells throughout the fall.
However, recent weeks have showed big improvements for the Grads. For one thing, the team has been much better disciplined than last year. It has led to better use of powerplay time and less work shorthanded. A trade with Nepean before the trade freeze gave Andrew DeBrincat to the Grads and he now has 10 points, including three on the powerplay, since joining the team. Mark Golberg’s return from injury has allowed him to prosper and score a bunch of GWGs. That has, in turn, given more openings to the shifty Matt Allan. David Bennett, named with Golberg to the Central Canada Cup’s Prospect Game, has also showed that his physical dominance is accompanied by some offensive skills.
While the Grads weren’t great at the Holiday Showcase, they do finally have their best lineups put together. At the centre of it all are veterans Nick Martin and Eric Clitsome. Martin, who almost didn’t make it back for a final year, eclipsed his previous season point high back in October showing that his excellent penalty killing is only one facet of his game. He’s recently been named captain after Rodier went to Nepean. Clitsome, playing at point-a-game clip, deserves the type of respect that sees him at the Central Canada Cup and should land him a college ride. Finally, Travis Douglas deserves a mention for the progress he’s made – his three goal outburst against Kanata should become more regular in the next few months. With the pieces together, the Grads should see better results in the second half.