The 2016-2017 is creeping up on us and before we begin, there have been some changes to the SHL. This season as we say goodbye to Rockford, we welcome New Trier Blue, York High school and Mount Carmel of Indiana to the league.
Bruce Turpin is entering his fifth season as coach of the York Dukes and this year he's challenged with a little change of scenery. York enters the Scholastic Hockey League for the first time this year from Elmhurst, IL coming off an Illinois West League Varsity Championship.
"Moving into the Scholastic League affords us the opportunity to play the top teams on a nightly basis," Turpin said. "The best way to improve is to face better competition consistently and this is what the league delivers. Change is difficult, not everyone embraces it right away and it scares some people, but change is needed to continue to improve and reach your goals."
Turpin started his coaching carrier in 2000 while he was earning his graduate degree at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The Canadian-native has been in Chicago since 2002 and has worked with teams such as Chicago Blues, Chicago Young Americans, Northbrook Bluehawks and Loyola Academy. Elmhurst however is where he'll continue to coach and help grow the hockey community.
"Elmhurst has a strong and thriving hockey community with the YMCA and the Elmhurst Chiefs programs initiating development, then moving players on to local Tier 2 and Tier 1 programs," he said. "Our goal is to create an environment and continue to improve our program, so that all players want to play for their high school as freshman."
One obstacle Turpin may run into this season is the age of his bench. Graduating 11 seniors means his younger players have big shoes to fill. The Dukes will look to four top returning seniors, Elliott Fafinski, Michael Rouzer, Nick Lee and Jack Redick to lead the way but he does have plenty of young talent this season.
He mentioned sophomore Chris Lee as a player to look out for as well as several freshmen and juniors including three JV players who were in the top 10 in league scoring last season.
"We should be in great shape with goaltending," he adds. "As we have junior Nolan Knupp and Senior Alex Crum returning to the team, as well as juniors Dylan Reynolds and Shane Cassidy vying for a spot on varsity. There will likely be a few players making the move to York from Tier 2 clubs that will slide into some varsity positions as well."
Despite some of the challenges that may lay ahead, Turpin is entering this season and the league with confidence.
"We are coming off our most successful season as a club in recent years," he said. "I was originally brought in to help elevate the program and its been four years of altering and refining the culture and making changes that we felt were needed to improve our program and help better develop our players."