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Change is coming for the North Bay Battalion after another big year
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Change is coming for the North Bay Battalion after another big year

Three years in a row of division championships and eastern final visits is a great achievement after three consecutive forgettable years, but change is always inevitable

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For general manager Adam Dennis, the end of the North Bay Battalion’s season marks the end of special relationships and, to some extent, an era in the Ontario Hockey League club’s history.

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“It’s sad,” Dennis admitted this week in the aftermath of the Battalion’s 6-1 loss Monday night to the host Oshawa Generals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Championship Series.

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“It’s sad because we had a lot of great things happen this year, and we had a lot of great people here who won’t be here next year. It’s bittersweet because that wasn’t the season. It was a good year.

“A lot of memories were made, and even down to that final buzzer, I thought our players showed what they were. They are competitive. They fought for us, incredible people of character, and they will be remembered here for a long time.”

The core of the 2023-2024 roster can be traced back to the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, when Dennis, then assistant general manager to Stan Butler, director of hockey operations, had a hand in the acquisition of Liam Arnsby, Paul Christopoulos and Justin Ertel, who are now graduating. defectors.

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“We’ve been talking about legacy all season. This group will have a great legacy in North Bay, and any success this team will have over the next two, three years will be the remnants of Liam Arnsby, Paul Christopoulos and Ty Nelson.

“All those guys left a mark on the culture and as sad as it is to see them go, it’s sad because it was so great to have them here, because they were such good people and because they showed us what it was. to be a battalion, and they showed those young boys what it was all about. I know they all took it seriously.”

Dennis, like coach Ryan Oulahen, took pride in the close nature of the relationships between the players on and off the ice.

“It’s a very special group when you talk about everything that’s going on in hockey and we have our 20-year-olds sitting at the lunch table with 16-year-olds so they feel comfortable. That’s a great culture.

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“As coaches, we say all the time that we would have loved to play for this team and play with these guys and compete with them in that room. We are proud that they wore our jersey and fought with us, and I know they made the community very proud.”

Dennis pointed to Ertel, who joined the Troops in 2022-2023 after playing for Cornell Big Red in the American University ranks. He was a third-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2021 National Hockey League Draft, scoring 39 goals and earning 66 assists for 105 points in 110 games over two seasons and then producing eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 16 games in the 2024 Playoffs.

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“In a new league, a new environment, there’s ups and downs and things you have to figure out, but he’s such a great teammate,” Dennis said of Ertel, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with Dallas.

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“He has always been there for his boys. He has plied his trade and is a hockey player. I think it was in that contract. He earned it. He really worked on it. He had a great summer. He has committed himself to this team.”

While some players will move on, Battalion’s 2022 first-round pick Ethan Procyszyn is among those returning to be part of the new core after filling in admirably for Arnsby, who was suspended for six play-off games.

“As a young guy, he already has a pretty extensive playoff resume, which is pretty cool,” Dennis noted. “You saw the steps he took from year 1 to year 2. The way he approaches things, I have no doubt you’ll see a similar leap in years 2 and 3 and in years 3 and 4, and 4 and 5.

“He’s a professional. He’s been able to enjoy some of the great things these older guys have left him, and it’s been a pleasure working with him. He did everything we could have asked for him. Someone is really going to get lucky in the NHL Draft with him.”

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Dennis said the 2019 selections and those that followed, including Nelson, the first overall pick in 2020, have created a new reputation for the battalion and the city of North Bay in the minds of potential players.

“The other side of things that you don’t see is the work that our scouting staff and myself do to talk to these guys and try to sell the program. I can’t thank guys like Justin, Ty, Liam and all those guys who took a chance on us (enough). We don’t have those problems anymore, and I owe it to them, and we owe it to them.

“They turned this place into a destination and they showed what it could be, and it’s up to us to continue that legacy for those guys.”

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