Howard lands on blades with Hawks in Exeter

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Dale Howard landed on his coaching blades with the Exeter Hawks after losing his job with the North Middlesex Stars of the Junior Development League.

Not only that but when he took the coaching job in Exeter, he was also handed the GM job.

Howard, who lives in London, had teamed with former Londoner Len Press to take the junior B Sarnia Blast to the 2002 Sutherland Cup championship. Press, by the way, is living in Owen Sound and coaching the Western C league Goderich Sailors.

In Exeter, Howard has 14 returning players, including veteran netminder Justin Hayter, usually an all-star, who is carrying the bulk of the load while 18-year-old Jordan Thomson from St. Marys is spotted as backup.

Howard said he didn't want to change things too much from what former GM John Rasenberg had in place. After all, the Hawks were JDL champs in 2002 and 2004.

He has three returning defencemen in Darcy McCutcheon, Joe Nesbitt and Scott Wolfe, who is back as an over-ager. Jeff Smale, also a returnee, moved to defence from forward. Rookie defenders are Mike Maclean, 19, and Tim Bilcke, 16, both from Exeter. Ryan Abrams has a spot on the blue-line and has junior experience coming over from the Parkhill Stars.

"Hayter is top-flight," said Howard, "and our goal scoring is spread around and our defence has been solid."

Indeed, the Hawks, 6-5-1, had a six-point week, giving up just three goals in three games while scoring 13 goals. That included a 1-0 win over the Mt. Brydges Bulldogs.

That firepower came from a rookie-laden forward corps that includes: 18-year-old Chad Snell of Dashwood, out of the Zurich minor system; Ryan Knee of Exeter, whose older brother Justin is now with the Rockets; Jeff Ackersviller, 17, of London; Greg Thompson of Exeter; and big 16-year-old Troy Elder of Exeter, whose older brother Travis plays for the St. Mike's Majors.

They are blended with returning forwards Paul Denomme, captain Scott Davies, assistant captain Jason Stuckless, Justin Young of London, Danny Moir of Hensall and Josh Liddle, 19, who came to the Hawks halfway through last season. He's from Kincardine and is attending Fanshawe College.

It was Moir who scored the winning goal in a 5-4 Game 6 victory over Tavistock to win the 2004 JDL.

The team's main attribute, said Howard, is that "we're tenacious -- we work every shift." That and the fact that 15 of the players are at least six feet tall.

Lincolns lead points race

Talk about a torrid scoring race. Much of it is among St. Marys Lincolns snipers though. Justin Salt, Nathan Peacock and Dillon Stokes, all Lincolns, are the front-runners in the Western Junior B points derby with 22 apiece. Salt is the top goal scorer in the league with 13 in 14 games while Peacock and Stokes have eight and seven respectively. Diminutive Kyle Nishizaki of the Chatham Maroons is fourth with 21 points. Three others, Matt Knights of the Maroons, Matt Parkes of the Sarnia Blast and Jeff Borrows of the Strathroy Rockets, have 20 points each. Parkes and Knights have 11 goals each.

Not only the points race is tight. Only six points separate the first- and eighth-place teams in the Western B league. St. Marys and Strathroy are tied for first at 18 points while eighth place London Nationals have 12 points. London has a couple of games in hand, however.


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