The Warren Mercs were one win away from capturing the team’s first South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League title since 2010 after a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 at home to the Morden Redskins on March 26. However, the Mercs are hoping that their new head coach can take the team over the top this season.
With the departure of Gerry Minaker, Warren has welcomed back former player Matt Figur to the fold. Figur, who played with both the Mercs and the Stonewall Flyers in the SEMHL, helped lead the Stonewall Jets to their first Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League championship in 2016 while sharing head coaching duties with Brock Couch. Figur will still serve as assistant general manager of the junior team this season.
“(Just giving) back to the sport. Being (a) coach with the Stonewall Jets and moving on to the senior ranks, there are quite a few players that played with the Stonewall Jets and it would be fun to continue on,” Figur told The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times. “They have a great team. They have a lot of returning guys … Really looking forward to winning a championship with the team would be my main goal.”
This season’s Mercs remain largely unchanged compared to last and Figur called them “a great group of Interlake guys who have a chance to win a championship this year.” The goaltending duo of former Selkirk Steeler Hayden Dola and former Stonewall Jet and Flyer Bryce Spittal will return this season. SEMHL All-Star Travis Bobbee will patrol the defense for Warren, as well as Kyle Lundale and Brendan Mitchell. Returning forwards include Reid MacLeod, Wes Pawluk, Matt Jacobucci, Chase Faulkner, Johnny Lazo, Mitch Hansen and Eric Swanson as well as the brother pairings of Brock and Trent Genyk and Kyle and Brenden Luschinski.
New players include former Stonewall Jets Aiken Chop and Braden Groot as well as Riley Vautour, who split last season between the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Steinbach Pistons.
Figur also said his team’s back end is well suited for a fast style of play.
“We want to be a quick transitioning team that has lots of speed entering into the offensive zone. I want to switch in and out of three different systems in the offensive zone. I want to be strong in a special teams aspect,” he said. “I believe special teams wins championships.”
The new head coach believes that the Mercs’ experience will help him achieve success come playoff time.
“Being that the squad is so veteran and a lot of the guys have played professional hockey down in the States or at the university level here in Canada, our highs can’t be too high and our lows can’t be too low,” Figur added. “(We will have) a real professional approach when we come to the rink and (we’ll) just
The 2019-20 SEMHL season will start when Warren faces the Carman Beavers at Sunova Arena in Warren on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m.