Money Men banking on Rodda
Sixth head coach in five years for St. Albert's junior B team
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 03:15 pm
A former head coach of the Morinville Jets has switched sides in the junior B rivalry with the St. Albert Merchants.
“I’ve got my fair share of emails and phone calls wishing me well and teasing me about crossing over to the other side,” said Scott Rodda, the sixth bench boss of the Money Men in five years.
Ironically the Merchants host the Jets in their Capital Junior B Hockey League lid-lifter Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
“It’s actually kind of exciting. The other coaches are looking forward to it and I’m sure that players on both teams are looking forward to it too, but probably more so for Morinville. They want to beat their ex-coach,” Rodda said. “It will be fun. It’s a good way to start the season. It will be a good rivalry. It always has been and it will probably get a bit better this year. I’m looking forward to it.”
Rodda spent four seasons with the Jets before last year's hiatus.
“I’ve got great memories of Morinville. It’s a great organization with a great bunch of kids,” said the FCSS director for the City of St. Albert. “I’ve been coaching for 30 years and last year would’ve been my 31st, so I’m back at it. I missed it. I’m still scouting so even when I wasn’t coaching last year I was in the rink a lot so I’m excited.”
The Merchants are coming off one of their best seasons in a long time. A dramatic playoff run ended one win short of going to the Founders Cup final as one of two CJHL reps at provincials.
“The coaches obviously did a great job last year. The organization is in good hands. There is lots of character on the team and lots of talent. We’re walking into a real good situation. Hopefully we can build on that,” said Rodda of the third-place 22-12-4 Merchants in the west division.
First team all-star goalie Justin Pawlenchuk is back after a strong regular season (16-10, 3.50 GAA and one shutout in 1,611 minutes) and he was even better in the playoffs (8-6, 3.06 GAA in 844 minutes).
“You start at our backend and we have a number one goalie. The backup goalie, Max (Cathcart, 6-6 and 3.68 GAA), was great as well last year. We’re looking really positive this year with both goalies back,” Rodda said.
Don't expect the Merchants to play a defensive brand of hockey with a new coach at the controls. They averaged 4.42 goals per game under coach Clint Wandler, a former Jets assistant coach, in 2012/13 for fifth best in the west. Ryan Harrison was the top playmaker with 29 assists and 42 points in 33 games and over-ager Alex Hawirko led the team with 21 goals in 28 games. Seven players scored 12 or more goals and five finished with 34 or more points.
Mike Roeleveld had a breakout playoff performance with a team-high seven goals, 10 assists and 17 points in 14 games. Harrison also had 10 helpers for 15 points.
Casey Reid (10 points), Matt Bowles (nine points) and Blair Macuch (five goals and nine points) also gave the Merchants a big boost offensively in the playoffs.
“I’m not one of those coaches that sits back. I find that defensive game really boring,” Rodda said. “We need good defence obviously, but I like to think that we’re going to be a fast skating, hard-hitting and well disciplined team that plays in-your-face kind of hockey. That’s the kind of style I want so we’ll see what we get in camp.”
With the Merchants’ fortunes on the upswing, the team had to turn players away from its condition camp last week after 36 quickly signed up. Rodda is expecting between 50 at 60 at the fall camp, which opened Tuesday, and plans to get down to around 40 when the Merchants play twice Saturday and twice Sunday. The first three pre-season games are at the Jets’ exhibition tournament at the Ray McDonald Sports Center. Game times Saturday are 2 p.m. against the Wetaskiwin Icemen, who beat the Merchants 3-2 in the deciding game in the best-of-seven semifinal in St. Albert, and 6:30 p.m. against the Stony Plain Flyers. Sunday's game is 2:15 p.m.
At 8 p.m. Sunday the Merchants will play another CJHL team at Akinsdale.
“We want to run two separate squads and then we’ll go from there. I’m hoping to get down to 25 or 28 by the season opener. That’s our goal,” said Rodda, who has more 21-year-old over-agers at the bigger than expected camp than the league maximum per team. “It’s daunting but I would rather have too many guys in camp and have to whittle down than not have enough. There is a lot of good players in camp all ready so we’ll see how it goes.”