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 »  Home  »  Sports & Leisure  »  Youthful Defenders Performing Well
Youthful Defenders Performing Well
By Brampton Battalion | Published  09/12/2010 | Sports & Leisure | Rating:
Brampton Battalion
The Brampton Battalion are a junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League.  Battalion Headquarters: Brampton Battalion Hockey Club, 7575 Kennedy Rd. South, Brampton, Ontario L6W 4T2 Phone: (905) 874-2393 Email: info@battalionhockey.com.  Brampton native Stuart McComish has served as the Battalion's website co-ordinator since Februrary 2000.  Visit the Brampton Battalion for more information. 

View all articles by Brampton Battalion
Brampton - Dennis Saikkonen had more to deal with than just the Kitchener Rangers on Monday.

“It was really hot in the arena, and I lost a lot of fluids,” the five-foot-11, 145-pound Swiss-born goaltender said after stopping 32 shots to backstop the Brampton Battalion to a 4-3 preseason victory in his Ontario Hockey League debut. “But it was a good game. I liked it.”

Saikkonen, a second-round pick in the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft in June, was one of several Battalion rookies testing their mettle in a home-and-home set against the Rangers, expected to be one of the top contenders in the Western Conference. The teams tied 2-2 Sunday at Kitchener.

“Right now we’re trying to get everyone out there and into all kinds of different situations so we can see what we have,” said Battalion assistant coach Kelly Harper, who ran the bench with colleague Mike Tamburro while head coach Stan Butler observed both games from afar. “We just kept rolling lines, and the guys did a good job.”

Saikkonen, who turns 18 on Nov. 27, was into the game early, stopping 12 of 13 first-period shots.

“I had warmed up well and did what I always do to get ready for a game. It’s much different now that training camp is over. We are a team, and I know the guys. I know how they are going to play. I was nervous and excited at the start, but after the first period I felt good.”

The Rangers introduced Saikkonen to OHL hockey, crashing his net on several occasions.

“They did it three or four times, but that’s hockey. You have to get used to it over here. They want to score. They’ll do whatever they can.”

Saikkonen had four rookie defencemen in front of him, in Marcus McIvor and Dylan Blujus, both 16, and Jordan Auld and Michael Mastrangelo, both 17.

“We all helped each other,” said Saikkonen. “It’s a lot easier when we can all talk to each other out there.”

A first-round choice in the OHL Priority Selection in May, McIvor had two assists in the victory, both points coming on the power play.

“Before the game in Kitchener I was sweating, but after a couple of shifts I was fine,” said McIvor, a resident of Whitby, Ont. “That first game helped all of us, I think. We all went out and played well in the second one, starting from Dennis on out. Those games were battles. They’ll really help us get ready for the season.”

McIvoir was paired with Kyle Pereira, in his third season with the Troops.
“Kyle’s been in the league a while and he knows what he’s doing,” said McIvor. “He told me where to be. The older guys took over on the power play. They just told us to play smart and play our game.”

Blujus, a third-round selection in May, earned one assist paired with veteran Cameron Wind.

“I had to get the first few shifts out of the way in that first game and then I felt good,” said Blujus, a resident of Amherst, N.Y. “We just had to focus on doing the small things and playing our role. It’s nice playing with a veteran like Wind. He was really helpful and backed me up if I made a mistake.”

Said Harper: “The young guys are all playing well positionally and moving the puck well. They’re making good decisions.”

Butler gave the Troops the day off Tuesday. The coaching staff will start to introduce more structure when practice resumes Wednesday. The Battalion’s next preseason game is at Pickering, Ont., against the Oshawa Generals on Sept. 15.

“This time of the season is tough for the first-year guys,” noted Harper. “They aren’t used to being on the ice so much. So it will be good to give them some time off to get settled.”

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