By Brendan Price / USPHL.com
Joining a division with the two-time defending champion Jersey Hitmen is a tough assignment, but Head Coach Jon Vaillancourt believes the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are ready to compete in a stacked South Division.
“In my opinion, I have been very happy with the competitive level and pace of our skates thus far. I think we have the right mix of talent, age and experience to make an impact in the NCDC,” said Vaillancourt.
The Knights dominated the Premier and Elite scenes in their inaugural campaigns. The two squads combined for a staggering 74-11-2 record, two Nationals appearances, and are looking to some of their familiar faces from within their program to help prime their first season at the NCDC level.
“I am excited to see Colin Anna and Hunter Parker make their mark in this league,” pointed out Vaillancourt.
Anna’s (‘02) first season in junior hockey was spectacular for the Knights’ Premier squad. Anna finished second on the team with 65 points in 43 games; he sniped 31 goals and had three hat tricks.
Parker (‘02), like Anna, made an indelible mark in his rookie campaign with Wilkes-Barre; he started the season on an eight-game point streak and never looked back. The Granite City, Ill., product finished with 47 points (18-29-47) in 35 games and could be part of the core that helps the Knights make a statement in the South.
Vaillancourt made note that he is equally excited about players they are adding to the program as well. The Knights picked up some help through the draft.
“I think Zachary Correia and Josef Vyvial who are import players we have coming in, were very successful with their former clubs,” Vaillancourt said.
Correia (‘02) spent three years in the USPHL with Richmond before heading up north to Pembroke in the CCHL last season; he played in 23 games and scored nine points and could be a key piece for the Knights’ blue line.
Import forward Vyvial (‘02) crosses the Atlantic after an impressive season in the Czechia U20 division. Vyvial averaged nearly a point per game, 42 points (20-22-42) in 43 games, which could boost a Knight offense playing in a division with two of the stingiest defense units in the NCDC a year ago.
It will be fun to watch this group mold together and compete,” he added.
All in all, the expectations for Vaillancourt and the Knights in year one are simple.
“Our team expectations are simple: win a championship and advance players to college,” he declared.
That being said, he understands the challenge and parity in store for the first year club.
“Be it the North or South division, the NCDC is extremely competitive throughout. I expect every game in the South division to be a tight battle for us,” Vaillancourt explained.
The battles don’t get much tougher than opening their season against the defending champion Jersey Hitmen tonight, Friday, Sept. 23, on their home ice the Revolution Ice Centre.