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Islanders look to build on making history
Eric Healey / for the GANANOQUE REPORTER
GANANOQUE, ON. (MARCH 28, 2013): Tom Dickson, the former Gananoque Islanders star-turned-coach, has earned his way up the ranks within the organization and on the points leader board
It has been five years since the Gananoque Islanders have won the Rideau Division Championship (2008/09) in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (EOJHL). But that hasn’t discouraged Dickson and crew from battling their way to being one of the league’s top contenders year after year.
Since the 1970’s when statistics started to be recorded, Dickson’s Islanders have posted two of the best years in franchise history. During the 2011-12 regular season they finished with a 27-19-0-2 recorded for a total of 56-points. At the conclusion of the 2012-13 regular season they chalked up a 29-14-0-3 record for an impressive 61-points — also a first for the franchise.
“Our records are on an up climb,” Dickson said after the Islanders were eliminated from the conference final by the Athens Aeros. “In the past 15 to 20 years, this is one of the best Islanders teams.”
“It is a great feat to have.”
Dickson will be the first to admit that the Islanders didn’t come off to a great start this season, stumbling to a three-game losing streak out of the blocks.
The early season shortcoming didn’t linger long though.
After a few games bouncing back and forth between the win/loss columns, Gananoque posted an impressive six-game win streak, which ended up second best on the season behind the Aeros’ eight-games. Over the stretch the Islanders netted 29 goals and only allowed 11.
As the season continued, building a solid line-up was one mountain Dickson and the coaching staff had to conquer.
“You never get the same line-up game in-game out,” he said. “It is hard on the guys and harder on the coaching staff.”
Players would miss games due to work and conflicts with school schedules. As Dickson put it, “that is how Junior B hockey works.”
Injuries certainly didn’t make setting lineups any easier on the coaching staff. Throughout the regular season 240-man-games were missed due to injuries plaguing the Islanders.
Brandon Torres suffered a hip injury early in the season and couldn’t skate. Unfortunately the Islanders were forced to release him after only having played seven games. Solid stay-at-home defenseman Graeme Moore played less than half the scheduled games having separated his shoulder. One of the Islanders best defenseman Taylor Kyle also suffered a shoulder injury, causing him to miss over a month and half of hockey. Bryar Hill was also subject of a shoulder injury.
Dickson believes if it weren’t for these injuries things may have been different.
“If they never got hurt, you never know,” he said. “We could have ran away with it. Maybe the playoffs would have [gone] different.”
“It (injuries) is one of those things you can’t really help.”
Despite the inconsistent line-ups and injury-stricken first half of the season, the Islanders posted up some really impressive numbers. They completed the 46 game regular season with a 29-14-0-3 record — the most in team history. They also scored 213 goals and 162 against for an average of 4.63% and 3.52% per game respectively.
With an impeccable season behind them, it comes as no surprise the awards that were handed to them.
Kyle earned his rank as defenseman of the year. Wyatt Cota who relieved Moore as team captain due to his injury, racked up 100 points and 43 goals to earn the Rideau-St. Lawrence Division Most Valuable Player.
“It is pretty special,” said Cota about the MVP nod. “It is the most bounces I have gotten all year long.”
It wasn’t only the players to receive awards. The Islanders coaching staff earned a couple gold stars of their own. They were awarded the Coaching Staff of the Year and Dickson etched his name on the General Manager of the Year award.
“Individually there was tons of accomplishments,” Dickson said. “If you look back on it now, it was an unreal season. Those little things go a long way.”
In the playoffs, the Islanders clinched a very physical series against the Westport Rideaus 4-3 in the division semifinal.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy series. As a coach it was a little bit stressful,” Dickson said. “It was nice to finally get the upper hand.”
The Islanders came out on top in the division semifinals against the Rideaus when Brett Arrowsmith scored the overtime winner in Game 7 in Westport.
In each game in the series the teams went almost check-for-check. Registering a total of 298 penalty minutes, 145 of those handed out to Gananoque.
“I found when we played physical we ended up controlling the play,” said Cota.
The Islanders fell short through the division finals when matched up against Athens — the first seeded team in the division.
“It was a tough go,” Dickson said. “Perhaps we came in a little high after the series with Westport.”
It was during this series the Islanders ran dry on their goal scoring and the first time during the season that both teams met with full rosters.
“We kind of took their line-up for granted,” Dickson said. “And we ran in to a hot goalie [Erik Miksik].”
“That mixed together, you are not going to win too many playoff series.”
Gananoque fired 200 shots on the net during the Athens series with only 10 getting past Miksik.
“If we played (physical) against Athens,” said Cota. “I think we definitely would have taken it to them.”
Overall Dickson couldn’t have been happier with the team he has put together.
“We did well with what we have,” Dickson said. “I am looking forward to doing it again next year.”
“We look forward to taking a couple of weeks off then it is right back to the drawing board (in mid-May).”
“It was a good year,” said Cota. “It was one of the most fun years I have ever played.”
Dickson retired from Junior B hockey at the end of the 2006-07 season after having played for five and a half years. Afterwards he coached the midget league for three seasons. Since returning to the Islanders Junior B franchise, he has made his way from assistant captain to head coach and general manager.
Dickson will be returning as the Islanders GM and head coach for the 2013-14 EOJHL season.
The photo also ran on Page 6 in the Monday, March 18, 2013 issue of The Whig-Standard.
Click here for a link to the online story at thewhig.com.
For the full story in the Gananoque Reporter, click here.