Familiar faces guide league finalists
Mike Koreen -The Whig-Standard
Photograph by Daniel Nugent-Bowman
One grew up and played his minor hockey in Kingston, teaming up with one of the city's most famous shinny sons before entering the coaching world.
The other earned his junior coaching stripes in the Limestone City, putting hundreds of thousands of clicks on his car to help make the Kingston Kimco Voyageurs national semifinalists.
They are Ian MacInnis and Peter Goulet, head coaches of the last two teams standing in the Central Canada Hockey League. MacInnis' Cornwall Colts and Goulet's Nepean Raiders begin the best-of-seven junior A final on Wednesday night in Nepean. The series continues the following night in Cornwall.
“It's first against second, it's what it should come down to,” said Goulet, whose Raiders finished five points ahead of the Colts in the race for first in the regular season.
“We've got some great hockey players on each team and I'm expecting a great series.”
Indeed, the talent on the ice is excellent — the teams combine to have at least seven players with verbal commitments to NCAA Division I programs, including five to Colgate. One of those is Colts winger Kyle Baun, grandson of legendary Leaf Bobby Baun. In addition, two Raiders — defenceman Ben Hutton, bound for the University of Maine, and forward Mackenzie Weegar — cracked NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2012 Entry Draft.
In Kingston hockey circles, though, the coaches will be in the spotlight.
Start with the Kingston-born MacInnis, who grew up as a teammate of Doug Gilmour. MacInnis then played junior with the Kingston Canadians, Belleville Bulls and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before re-uniting with Gilmour on the 1982-83 Cornwall Royals, where the Colts coach scored 54 goals.
“I went to Sault Ste. Marie with the understanding of if I wanted to get to Cornwall, they'd do it,” MacInnis recalled. “(Then-Greyhounds coach) Terry Crisp was a man of his word and we had a great year (in Cornwall).”
That season, MacInnis also met a Cornwall woman — Wendy — who has now been his wife for 20-plus years. After a cup of coffee in the minor pros (he was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks and traded to the Quebec Nordiques before a shoulder injury derailed his playing career), MacInnis returned to Cornwall and started a 20-year career working in the paper mill. He also scouted for the Bulls, keeping his fingers in hockey until he purchased the Colts in 2005.
“I love it,” MacInnis, 50, said of running the hockey show in Cornwall. “It keeps me young.”
The Colts hosted the RBC Cup national championship in 2008, but still are looking for their first CCHL title under MacInnis, who remains a close friend of Gilmour. They came close last year, losing in a six-game final against the Pembroke Lumber Kings, who went on to win the national championship after capturing their fifth league title in a row. Eight players are back from last year's runner-up Colts squad.
The Lumber Kings' search for six officially ended on Sunday when they lost 3-1 in Nepean in Game 7 against the Raiders in a tight semifinal series.
“I've got a ton of respect for what Pembroke has done,” Goulet said. “It's great for our organization and great for any team to knock off the defending champs. Give them all the credit in the world. They battled us hard.”
When times get tough — and they sure did in the Pembroke series with the Lumber Kings having leads of 2-0 and 3-2 — Goulet can think back to his run to the RBC Cup with the Vees in 2009.
Evan Robinson's assistant coach/jack-of-all-trades, Goulet was behind the bench for five playoff series victories in league play, a Dudley Hewitt Cup central Canadian crown and a berth in the national final four.
“I'm really happy for Pete. He's one of the nicest guys you'll find in hockey and one of the hardest-working guys,” said Robinson, whose dad, Barry, has made a couple of trips to watch Goulet's Raiders in the playoffs.
“He makes an unreal commitment. You get what you put into it and he's showed that.”
Goulet, hired as GM/coach of the Raiders midway through the 2009-10 season, is making his first trip to the CCHL final. But championship hockey is nothing new to him.
“Obviously, having been there and going through that with the Vees is a valuable experience,” Goulet, 42, said. “It's very valuable for myself as a coach.”
Goulet still resides in Sydenham with his wife Shannon and daughter Cheraton. He commutes back and forth each day. What's more, he figures he put more than 10,000 km on his car during a scouting trip at the end of the regular season.
“When you're doing something you love, you don't even think about (the long, lonely hours),” Goulet said. “I love it. It doesn't even feel like work.”
The winner goes on to play in the Fred Page Cup eastern Canadian championship in Kanata later this month.
Nepean won three of five games against the Colts this season, but Cornwall won the last one — 2-1 way back on Jan. 8.
“We're very evenly matched,” MacInnis said. “It should be a good series.”