New players, a new team captain, new assistant coach and a new season. Pembroke Lumber Kings hockey returns this weekend with a lot of new faces playing in the oldest rink in the Central Canada Hockey League. Fresh off its 70th anniversary, the Pembroke Memorial Centre marks another opening night when the Kings welcome the Carleton Place Canadians on Sunday, September 25th for a 7 p.m. face-off.
City crews have been working for the past week to get the ice ready for the weekend, one that will see the the arena host an Ontario Hockey League exhibition game between the Ottawa 67’s and North Bay Battalion on Saturday, September 24th, before the Kings kick off their home schedule the following night.
The Kings enter a new season with only three returning players from the club that lost a heartbreaking quadruple overtime game seven to the Brockville Braves in the first round of last year’s league playoffs. Two of the returnees are defenceman, Nathan Duck and Raphael Seguin. The other is a forward and the club’s new captain, Alex Urbisci who enters his fourth year with the Kings.
Head coach Alex Armstrong says Urbisci was an obvious choice to lead the team. “Alex has a high hockey IQ and is a great leader on and off the ice. He works hard and leads by example,” says Armstrong.
In the off-season, assistant coach Todd Clarke left the Kings to take on a coaching role with the Renfrew Wolves. Replacing Clarke is Issac Anderson who spent four seasons playing with the Ottawa Junior Senators, helping the club win an Eastern Canadian title in the 2017-18 season. Anderson will join Armstrong and Peter Sigouin on the bench.
The Kings were 3-2 and 1 in the pre-season. Armstrong is confident they will be competitive despite all of the roster changes. “We have a quick team that competes hard,” says Armstrong who is looking forward to the start of the new season.
It will take a few games before the Kings coaching staff can fully assess how the club measures up against the league’s other teams, and no doubt, there will be some line-up changes as the season progresses. Cuts from major junior teams often lead to additions to Junior A rosters as coaches identify strengths and weaknesses, where one or two new players can make a significant difference.
For now, everyone is equal in the standings and just glad to be back on the ice. Hockey is back!