Liverpool’s junior “B” team has a new head coach.
Ben Duffy, originally of Lower Sackville, will take over the reins of the Privateers from Paul Strople, who gives up the helm to focus on work commitments.
Strople, the head coach of the past two-and-a-half years, stays with the organization to help with general management duties and player development.
This will be Duffy’s first stint as a coach, but the 29-year-old is no stranger to the game.
“He’s played at a high level. He’s got current hockey experience,” said Privateers president, Bruce Inglis. “He’s a young guy which we think can help motivate the kids to perform for him. We’re excited.”
He was drafted fifth overall by a Prince Edward Island team in the 2008 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft. He spent five years with the organization and, in the 2012-13 season, he won the league’s scoring title with 110 points in 68 games.
His professional career has seen him play in U.S.-based leagues and also in Germany, Italy and Denmark.
As for off-the-ice, he also holds a commerce degree from Saint Mary’s University.
Duffy said that Privateers general manager Jim Bottomley reached out to him to see if he was interested and he gladly accepted.
“I’m looking forward to working with the junior players. I had a good junior career and still being young and energetic I think I will be able to relate well with what they’re going through in their lives and carers,” he said.
“I’m just looking to help out how I can on the ice and with them personally as well.”
Duffy was an assistant coach with Kings-Edgehill school team last year and has done some player development with minor hockey.
He looks forward to taking his next step with Liverpool.
“I’m looking forward to being involved with an organization that treats their players well,” he said. “I also think there is a great opportunity, especially with us hosting the championships next season. There’s a lot of excitement around the organization and it will be a fun time to be around Liverpool.”
Liverpool will host the Don Johnson Cup, the eastern junior “B” championships in April 2023. They were scheduled to host in 2021, however, the event has been cancelled for the last two seasons.
The Privateers came off a pandemic-shortened season in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League where they were only able to complete about one-third of the season. They finished first in the Fred Fox division with a record of 9-3 before the season was shutdown briefly in March.
When the league resumed, teams went right into playoffs, and after a bye into the second round Liverpool lost to the East Hants Penguins. In the 2019-20 season, they finished third in the division and lost to these same Penguins in the first round.
Inglis hopes to build on their success in the regular season last year and go farther in the playoffs.
“We definitely felt we had the core to win last year, we were certainly on that track, but it was a disruptive season, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “We didn’t perform up to expectations so we’re looking to get a little bigger and a little meaner because we want to win in the playoffs. That’s important for us.”
Training camp begins September 7 in Halifax. The first exhibition game is scheduled for September 24 against the Cole Harbour Colts in Shearwater.
Inglis said most of the players from last year are scheduled to return with just two having graduated from last year’s team. He said there are probably spots for three forwards and two defencemen up for grabs.
The team will play their first five games, of the 32-game regular season, on the road beginning in Cape Breton October 1. Their first home game is scheduled for October 9 against the Valley Maple Leafs.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin