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Voyageurs add eight players to roster in hopes of improving on tough 2019-20 season

NOJHL MVP Caleb Serre tops the list of players that have committed to the Voyageurs
Coach Craig Duncanson and the Voyageurs Men’s Hockey team have announced the commitment of eight players for the 2020-21 season. (File)

Coach Craig Duncanson and the Voyageurs Men’s Hockey team have announced the commitment of eight players for the 2020-21 season. 

After finishing the season near the bottom of the league in both offence and defence, both ends of the ice needed addressing and this list of incoming recruits checks off both boxes.

The class begins up front with a pair of NOJHL alum entering the fold. After being named the NOJHL MVP, a finalist for the CJHL MVP and winning the NOJHL scoring race with 113 points, 25 points clear of the next closest player, Caleb Serre will be enrolling in the Sport and Physical Education program in the fall. 

After four seasons with his hometown, Blind River Beavers, the last three of which he served as team captain, Serre’s offensive prowess has never been lacking, tallying 269 points over his 210 game career.

While the numbers are impressive, Serre prides himself on his hard play at both ends of the ice. “I am a two-way forward,” he said. “I keep things simple and compete hard every shift. 

One of my biggest assets is being the type of player that can be put into any role and to handle that role to the best of my abilities.”

His new bench boss shares the same sentiment, describing Serre as “an exceptional scorer who also contributed as a strong penalty killer for his team and he has been a quality leader for his entire tenure in Blind River.”

Joining Serre from the NOJHL is Rayside-Balfour Canadians graduate, Benjamin Hatanaka. The future Biology/Con. Ed. student is no offensive slouch in his own right, finishing with nearly a point per game this season. 

However, the Burlington, ON, native openly admits that offense is not necessarily the focus of his game, commenting, “I would say I am a two-way forward always looking to set up a teammate but I think my biggest impact on the ice would be my defense.”

Coach Duncanson likes what he has seen from Hatanaka and is looking forward to the intangibles that he brings to the rink, saying, “Ben has blossomed into a consistent performer over the past two seasons in Rayside-Balfour and we look to him to provide both speed and intensity to our line up.”

Rounding out the forwards in the initial class are a trio of players from the LHJAAAQ, including high- scoring Terrebonne Cobras teammates David Perrault and Charles Farmer. Perrault, a future Sport and Physical Education student, finished second on his team in scoring, tallying 83 points in just 48 games.

And while the numbers are equally impressive, the Mascouche, QC, native follows the trend of priding himself in his overall game, saying, “I'm a two-way player that plays on both ends of the ice, I can bring offense while also being reliable and responsible on defense.”

Duncanson couldn’t agree more with his new centerman’s self-assessment, adding, “David is a solid two way center who is exceptional on face-offs. He is both intense and talented and will add the tenacity that is required to excel in the OUA.”

Farmer, a Blainville, QC, native will be entering the Sport Psychology program in September. After stints with Val-d’Or of the QMJHL over his first three years of junior hockey, Farmer finished his career with the Cobras and exploded offensively this season, leading his team with 86 points in 48 games.

When asked about his game, Farmer gave an in-depth assessment. 

“I think that the best qualities I have as a hockey player is my hockey IQ, I have great abilities with the puck and I am a good skater. The large ice in Sudbury will certainly be something I will look to exploit and it will help my game a lot. I qualify myself as a good overall player, but I am more an offensive guy," he said.

"Being an offensive guy, my biggest contribution to the team will be on the offensive side, with my skating and my energy, but I have good confidence in my defensive game too.”

For Duncanson, it is Farmer’s offense that he will be relying on, saying, “Charles is a right handed forward with a natural scoring ability and a competitive nature to match his ability. He will be looked upon to create offense for us over his tenure here at Laurentian.”

The fifth forward donning the blue and gold in the fall is the LHJAAAQ’s leading scorer, Alex Plamondon. A St-Charles-de-Drummond, QC native, Plamondon played a full season and parts of two others with Shawinigan of the QMJHL before tallying 115 points in 46 games with the Princeville Titans this season. 

A future Sports Administration student, Plamondon was succinct in describing his game, simply saying, “I am a two-way player, hard to play against, with good hockey sense, good hands and I am not afraid of blocking pucks. I will help the team putting up some goals on the board.”

Duncanson, on the other hand, had a little more praise for his future centerman. “Alex is an exceptional scoring center who plays a solid 200ft game and provides the character and leadership qualities that will exemplify the model Voyageur student athlete.”

While most potential student-athletes confirm their destination based on athletic opportunities and/or academic opportunities, the clincher for Plamondon happened in the kitchen of the Duncanson home during his visit. “Honestly, Coach Duncanson invited (Renat) Dadadzhanov and me to have dinner with him and his wife. I knew Laurentian was good for me when I tasted the lasagna Mrs. Duncanson made for us. Thanks to her!”

The lasagna must have been exceptionally tasty that night as Dadadzhanov, originally from Moscow, is also coming to the Nickel City. A 6-3 defenceman, the future Sport and Physical Education student played with Shawinigan for two season before joining Val-d’Or half way through last season. This season, with the Saint-Jérôme Panthères of the QJAAAHL, he tallied 35 points in 42 games while recording a +28. 

In looking at his game, Dadadzhanov was very frank, saying, “I’m a shut down defenseman. I play a simple game and love to play physical. My biggest impact is my physicality and penalty killing.”

Coach Duncanson is looking forward to the void that Dadadzhanov should fill immediately. “At 6-3 and 215 lbs., Renat is a mobile defenseman will fulfill the size and physical defensive play that will be missed with the departure of Tyler Cooper and Jayme Forslund.”

The second defenceman joining the squad is Drummondville, QC, native, Alexandre Rondeau, who played the past two seasons with the Melfort Mustangs of the SJHL. 

This season with the Mustangs, the future Finance or Sports Administration student notched 41 points in 50 games, showcasing his ability to contribute at both ends of the ice, earning his division’s Defenceman of the Year award.

Both player and coach view Rondeau’s game in the same light, with Rondeau saying, “I am a physical, two-way defenceman with good speed. I can contribute on both ends of the ice and provide leadership and communication.” Duncanson agrees, adding, “Alexandre is another large, mobile defenseman that will add depth and offensive ability on our blue line.”

While Rondeau wasn’t at the table that night to enjoy some of the delicious lasagna, he still relied on his gut to help him make his final decision. “I had the same gut feeling choosing Laurentian as when I decided on my junior team,” he said. “It was the best choice I could have made. Laurentian University seems like it is the perfect fit for me to fulfill my goals as a student athlete and for achieving my education goals.”

The final player in this year’s initial recruiting class is reigning NOJHL Defenceman of the Year and CJHL Defenceman of the Year finalist, Mattais Salem. The Brampton, ON, native finished fourth in the league in scoring and was the only defenceman in the top 20, amassing 66 points in 55 games with the Espanola Express. 

A future Business Administration student, Salem considers himself an opportunistic defenceman, saying, “I am a two-way defenseman who jumps into the play when presented the opportunity but I can also play defensively sound and stop the opposing teams’ top guys. I have a pass first mentality and can create scoring chances for my teammates.” 

Judging from his 50 assists this past season, those passes are fairly accurate.

Following a 40-point improvement over last season, Duncanson hopes Salem’s upwards trajectory continues. 

“Mattais has upside in every aspect of his game and we look forward to giving him the opportunity to letting it flourish here as a Voyageur.”

Despite the opportunities and potential on the ice, academics played a big part in Salem’s decision, a sentiment shared by almost all of the incoming recruits. “Laurentian was the top choice for me,” he commented. 

“Due to the business programs they offer and the coaching staff’s interest in me as a player. Education is the top priority and I know that getting my business degree from Laurentian will set me up for life after school and hockey.”

The first step in that process for all of the incoming recruits will begin this fall.