Roster additions give Deseronto Bulldogs plenty of optimism heading into Saturday’s EOSHL season opener

Adam Prudhomme

A road game against the Frontenac Phantoms this Saturday at the Cataraqui Arena is how the Deseronto Bulldogs will kick off their third season of the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League.

Following a chaotic season that was the polar opposite of routine, the Bulldogs are banking on more stability as they gear up for the new season.

“We’re really excited about the players that we’ve got coming back,” said Bulldogs president/owner/player Landon Punchard. “We’ve got basically all of our roster from last season coming back and then we’ve made some key additions that we feel are really going to help us this year both on and off the ice.”

After posting identical 5-12-1 records in their first two seasons, the Bulldogs believe they’re ready to take a step forward this year in the 12-team senior hockey league.

“Last year we were kind of handcuffed with the shortened season then we lost some key players that went to the (Federal Prospects Hockey League) in the States,” said Bulldogs head coach Steve Durnan. “This year we’ve acquired some really good players. I honestly think that it’s going to be more like the first year and I think we’ve got a very good chance of going right to the finals. All of the guys are really positive and they’re really looking forward to it. We’re definitely going to have a very strong club this year.”

After having to start the year playing ‘home’ games in Napanee last season, this year ‘Dogs will play all 10 of their home games at the Deseronto Community Rec Centre, affectionately known as the Dog Pound.

“The town has always had our back as far as fan support goes and I think with a couple of additions in the offseason with some good, local talent, I think that’s appeal to a lot of the fans,” said Bulldogs general manager/goalie Graeme Gemmill. “Especially a guy like Noah Brant, a good local kid, he’s going to be arguably one of our best players if not one of the top players in the league. He’s turned a lot of heads in training camp and during our pre-season game against Smith Falls.”

A Quinte Red Devil in his development years, Brant had 26 goals and 16 assists last year with the Picton Pirates.

Other notable additions to this year’s roster as forward Braydan Forestell, who earned Forward of the Year honours while with the South Grenville Rangers in 2019-20.

Connor Burns and Greg Arnburg, who joined the team midway through last season, are back for a full year on the blue line. Matthew Panetta will also join a strong defensive unit after wrapping up his junior career with the Napanee Raiders. He’s already made enough of an impression on the team in training camp that they’ve named him an assistant captain.

New this year, teams can have up to 32 players rosters, up from last year’s 30, with 20 dressed on game day. Punchard says the Bulldogs will have a full roster, which creates the nice problem of the coaching staff having some tough decisions to make on any given game night.

Following this Saturday’s season opener, the Bulldogs will play their first home game of the season on Oct. 1 when they host the South Stormont Mustangs. Puck drop is 6:30 p.m.

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