By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
EXETER – The Exeter Hawks are just past the halfway point of their Jr. 'C' season and sit in third place with 14 games remaining.
Thus far, Hawks first-year GM Doug Timmermans said he would rate the team's play this season as a B-minus.
"We're looking for a consistent effort, we're looking for guys to dig deep and find ways to win games," he said. "The frustrating part is we have all the pieces we need in the room, we just need those pieces to show up every night."
He noted the team’s 12-9-2 record is indicative of their inconsistency.
"We're around a .600 team mathematically," Timmermans said. "That's two steps forward, one step back."
While he noted it's still relatively early in the 37-game season, there's still pressure.
"You've got to see some light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "We see it, but if we could string (together) five or seven games in a row, we'd be far happier."
He noted the team's top line of Kalvin Thornton, Brodie Balcom and Cam Jude has been playing well.
"I think my first line is doing the job," he said. "Conversely, I think my third and fourth line guys are doing their job really well.
"I don't want to point the finger at one line, but it's the second and maybe some guys on your third line you want to step up and put the puck in the net."
Timmermans signed forward Zach Anderson from the Jr. 'B' St. Thomas Stars last week in an attempt to fill that void. Anderson scored twice in his first game with the Hawks, Wednesday's 11-4 loss to Lucan, before leaving with a separated shoulder.
He's expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
On the back end, Timmermans noted the Hawks are pleased with their defensive corps.
"We've got Mitch Wild and John Kingma, two of the best defencemen in the league," he said, adding Alex Deluce has been playing well this year.
"He's having a great year and he's only 17," Timmermans said of Deluce. "He's pulling his weight and doing well."
Timmermans said after those defencemen, and since Clarke Thompson went down with a knee injury that will sideline him for the foreseeable future, the Hawks previously didn't have much depth on the back end.
To deal with that lack of depth the Hawks signed Conner Preston, who formerly played with Tavistock, Jake Currie from Mooretown and Cam Purdy from North Middlesex. The three rearguards bring more than 200 games of experience to the Hawks.
"We went out and found some experienced Jr. 'C' defencemen," he said. "You have total faith in putting them out at any time."
In net, the Hawks are confident in young goaltender Bryan Paolotto, Timmermans said.
"Paolotto has been awesome," he said. "Another guy that's still a midget player and he's one of the top goalies in the league."
He noted the Hawks didn't want to put the entire workload on a 17-year-old goalie, so the team had signed Paul Orlando to split the duties.
But Orlando has decided to retire from hockey and the Hawks signed goaltender Colton James in his place. James had previously played in the Lambton AAA organization, but had taken some time off to focus on his studies.
In terms of other needs, Timmermans noted the team could still use some aggressiveness up front.
"We need a bit of grit," he said. "A guy that's going to lead the charge on the forecheck, play hard and win those battles in the corners and along the boards."
To that end, Timmermans said he's always working on moves to improve the team.
The Hawks can't make cuts after Jan. 9, but can sign players until Feb. 10-12
Timmermans said, meaning teams will be allowed to sign players during playoffs which begin Jan. 20.
However, unlike years past when teams could carry 25 players until December, a 23-player roster limit is enforced.
Still, Timmermans expects to make a few more moves, noting Lambeth, Dorchester and Port Stanley are all strong teams.
"I think we're a player or two away from really competing with them," he said of the aforementioned teams. "I like to think we can compete with them now, we're just not doing it.
"Maybe I need to pick up two more guys to make us that much deeper."