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October 30, 2002

Bulldogs take on rookies

From: London Free Press, Canada
Oct. 30, 2002

By Eric Bender, Free Press Sports Reporter

After losing a batch of players to various universities and colleges, and losing Bill Piskorowski to the junior B London Nationals, the Mt. Brydges Bulldogs are stitching together a competitive bunch with 19 rookies in the Junior Development League under the tutelage of head coach Jason Bukala and the direction of general manager Jim Simpson.

One of the primary lines has 16-year-old Adam Cole, a local boy, at centre, with two 20-year-olds with junior B experience on his wings in Tyler Gil from the St. Thomas Stars and Matt Lambert from the St. Marys Lincolns. Cole is described as an aggressive type, fit to be pivot for his mates who know the game at a higher level.

That's the pattern for the whole team -- "young guys down the middle with experienced guys on the wings," says Bukala.

Tom Burns, 16, and Marcel Ianni, 17, both out of London, are two other rookie centres. Up front are captain Mark Doyle and fellow veteran Tyler French, 17, a power forward.

On the blue-line, Bukala has two returning players in Bill Graansma, brother of Nationals forward Derek Graansma; Jon Lobodzinski, a deaf player who is playing for Canada at this winter's world tournament for deaf players in Sweden, and Joe Elwes-Clark from Mt. Brydges, who has been an affiliated player with the Bulldogs for two years.

He is 17 and an OHL St. Michael's Majors draft choice.

Guarding the twine and back for a third season is league all-star Brendan Keddy, 18. He is backed up by Shawn Athill, 16, from Thamesford.

The Bulldogs defeated defending JDL champion Exeter Hawks, the favourite again this season, in their initial meeting, 3-1. A rematch is set for Friday in Exeter. The 'Dogs also beat Dick Howard's Thamesford Trojans, a powerhouse again, and have a quick return meeting on Sunday against the Trojans.

Mt. Brydges has lost to the Belmont Bombers, North Middlesex Stars, Port Stanley, Thamesford and Lambeth. But they've also beaten those teams.

"I see a lot of parity in this (Yeck Conference) league," says Bukala, who last coached with the Lucan Irish for three seasons, culminating in the JDL championship in 1999.

Bukala sees Lucan with an "up-tempo team" that probably will finish strong, and the Lambeth Lancers who "look pretty good."

He characterizes the Bulldogs as a "sleeper team" that will continue to get better as the season progresses. The record now is 6-5 with a couple of toughies coming up. "We're not done adding yet."

There are a couple of players at the University of Western Ontario, one playing football, the 'Dogs want to pick up.

"We're working on more depth," Bukala says.

Are the Bulldogs appreciated? "This is a refreshing atmosphere," says Bukala. "Fan support is as good as some junior B centres."

In the McConnell Conference, the Hagersville Hawks have taken a commanding lead out of the gate and had just one loss after nine games. There were two ties.

Copyright © 2002, The London Free Press. All rights reserved.