Niagara Gazette —
Those two players are now gone. Gjurich, who was in the final year of junior eligibility, is about to begin a minor league tryout for the New York Rangers organization in Hartford. Gahagen is entering his first year at West Point, where he will stop pucks for Army’s NCAA Division I hockey team. The latter is one of at least a half-dozen players from last year’s lineup who are preparing this fall to continue their hockey careers at the NCAA level.
Among the few players returning from last year’s lineup is Lewiston resident Ben Casale. Like Peca, he’s pleased with how last season went but like his coach is hungry for more.
“Definitely. It was nice winning the regular season in the conference last year but it left a bad taste in our mouth losing so early (in the playoffs),” said Casale. “We had bigger goals and this year is the same. We expect to do big things and go as far as the Dudley Hewitt Cup (the Ontario Provincial championship).”
Besides Casale, this year’s edition features Nick Smith, a North Tonawanda native who studies and has previously played at Nichols. He was called up to the Jr. Sabres briefly last season and this year has a regular spot on the roster.
“Nick was part of this team a couple of years ago but decided to go back to Nichols (to play). He thought that was best for his development,” said Peca. “What we’d seen in Nick last year when he was up with us a little bit, and even just a one-game preseason that we had, Nick’s got some pretty nice potential in him. He skates really well. He handles the puck pretty good. He’s not afraid to go to the hard areas of the ice. I’m really excited to see what kind of player he can develop into.”