WATERLOO, Ont. (July 14, 2016) - Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey head coach GREG PUHALSKI announced details of his 2016-17 recruiting class on Thursday.
Fresh off their first playoff appearance in three years, the Golden Hawks have boosted their talent level both at forward and on the blueline with a class that features ten players. Puhalski will be adding six forwards and four defencemen to his roster next season as Laurier looks to improve on their first round postseason exit.
"We are extremely pleased with our group of recruits this year,” commented Puhalski on what is his sixth recruiting class since joining Laurier in the summer of 2011. “We are happy they chose Laurier for their academic and athletic careers. It will be nice to have each of them be part of our Laurier family for years to come.”
Headlining the group are four players who have multiple years’ experience playing major junior hockey in Canada. Forwards Andrew Fritsch of Brantford, Ont., and Lucas Batt of Lewisport, N.L., are joined by defencemen Braydon Blight of St. Mary’s, Ont., and Alex Annecchiarico of Richmond Hill, Ont., to bring nearly 550 games of experience playing at the highest level of junior hockey.
Fritsch joins Laurier after playing the last two years with the St. Thomas Tommies of Atlantic University Sport (AUS). In 36 games with the Tommies, the 6-0 forward scored four goals and 17 assists before they folded at the end of last season. Prior to attending St. Thomas, the former sixth round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes played five years in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with Niagara, Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie where he scored 103 goals and 118 assists in 274 career games. He also won the OHL Championship with Owen Sound in 2011.
Batt, a 5-11 forward, spent parts of two seasons with Victoriaville, Moncton and Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In 85 games during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, he scored eight goals and added eight assists. This past season, Batt suited up for the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) where he finished second in league scoring with 28 goals and 49 assists in 55 games. He helped his team win the league championship while also reaching the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior ‘A’ Championship.
Both Blight and Annecchiarico followed similar paths to Laurier and will help to strengthen the Laurier blueline. Blight, a 6-0 rearguard, spent last season in the Maritime Hockey League (MHL) with the Truro Bearcats where he had nine goals and 17 assists. Before joining Truro, he spent parts of three years with Kingston (OHL) and Saint John (QMJHL) where he appeared in 115 games recording 13 points. Meanwhile, Annecchiarico also played in the MHL last year with Summerside and Weeks, recording 18 points in 46 games. Prior to that, he played parts of three years in the OHL with Owen Sound, appearing in 73 games.
A pair of local products, Jimmy Soper and Danny Hanlon, cousins from Waterloo, Ont., will also be joining the purple and gold in 2016-17. Soper, who played 50 games in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers in 2013-14, comes to Laurier from Truro of the MHL. Over the course of his two-year career with the Bearcats, he scored 36 goals and added 41 assists in 86 games and last season, served as team captain.
As for Hanlon, the former Waterloo Siskin, who played three years at the Hawks’ home rink, the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, he is coming off a championship season with the Trenton Golden Hawks of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). A 60-point season for the 5-10 forward, Hanlon and Trenton captured the league championship and qualified for the RBC Cup where they reached the semifinals.
The two remaining forwards in this year’s class are Neil Aird of Ancaster, Ont., and Cole Porter of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. Aird, who stands 6-3 and weighs 205 pounds, played for the Miramichi Timberwolves of the MHL the last two years and recorded 52 goals and 60 assists in 87 games. Porter comes to Laurier from the La Ronge Ice Wolves in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and as an assistant captain last season led the team in scoring with 28 goals and 56 points in 54 games.
Rounding out this year’s recruiting class are two defencemen, Jacob Hetherington of Kingston, Ont., and Jeremy Leclerc of Saskatoon, Sask. Hetherington, a stay-at-home defender who stands 6-4, joins Laurier from the Wellington Dukes of the OJHL where he had 39 points in 182 games over the last four years. Leclerc comes to the Golden Hawks from the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) where he spent three season recording 18 goals and 51 assists in 171 games.
All ten players will have their first chance to suit up for the purple and gold on September 14 when the Hawks take on the Waterloo Warriors in their first non-conference game of the season at Columbia Ice Field. Laurier’s non-conference schedule will also see them travel out East for games against the Saint Mary’s Huskies and the Dalhousie Tigers, as well as a trip to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.