While the Haliburton County Huskies may have fallen short of their pre-season goal of bringing a first OJHL championship to the Highlands, head coach Ryan Ramsay said he’s proud of the record-setting year his team put together.

After amassing a regular season record of 36-14-3, with one tie, an injury-riddled Huskies were swept in the second round of playoffs by the Wellington Dukes. It brought an end to the team’s second season in the County, one that set organization records in team wins, goals scored, and average attendance.

“We had our best season not only in Huskies history, but in franchise history dating back to our days as the Whitby Fury. We had some tremendous results and performances. We had seven of our eight 20-year-olds get commitments to play college hockey next season. And we saw amazing development of some young players who will be leaders for us next season,” Ramsay told The Highlander.

The Huskies regularly featured in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s list of ‘Top 20’ franchises nationwide, peaking at ninth in December.

Away from the rink, Ramsay said his team embraced his culture of being present and involved in the community. The Huskies ran programs at Archie Stouffer, Stuart Baker, and J.D. Hodgson elementary schools, while also participating in Christmas parades in Minden and Haliburton, attending a festive event at Curry Motors, and attending the grand opening of the new outdoor rinks in Harcourt and West Guilford.

The team held an awards night ceremony following the season, honouring some of this year’s top performers. Patrick Saini was recognized as MVP after putting up 66 points in 48 games, with Ramsay saying he led by example during every shift.

Graduating forward Ty Collins received the ‘Top Goal Scorer’ award after potting 39 goals in 53 games; outgoing captain Christian Stevens and Sam Solarino split ‘Hardest Worker’ honours; Isaac Sooklal and Will Gourgouvelis shared the ‘Top Defenceman’ title; Sooklal also received ‘Best Playoff Performer’; Jack Staniland was recognized as the ‘Most Improved Player’; and first-year players Leo Serlin and Tyler Hodges were named co-Rookies of the Year.

With at least 10 players moving on, Ramsay said he has some big holes to fill heading into next season. Most notable will be that of Stevens, who moves on after two seasons in Haliburton County. The 20-yearold recently committed to the University of Toronto, where he’ll start studying social sciences in the fall.

“It’s been one of the biggest privileges of my life to serve as captain of the Huskies this season. What a community Haliburton County has been to play in,” Stevens told The Highlander. “It’s hard not to get emotional about it – I’ve had the best two years. Made connections and friendships I’ll hold on to forever.”

Some of his best memories stem from the time he spent speaking with young hockey enthusiasts in the community and signing autographs outside the Huskies’ locker room on game days.

“Having a junior hockey franchise in your community can really change how kids look at hockey. It shows them there is a path forward, gives them something to work towards, a dream to cling on to” Stevens said, who used to attend Fury games as a kid.

Stevens expects the Huskies to be a contender again next year. He believes the likes of Lucas Stevenson and Saini are ready to take a step forward and assume leadership of the team next season.

“This organization has a bright future. Ryan and [owner] Paul Wilson know how to build a team and have a winning mentality. Haliburton County is junior hockey’s newest powerhouse,” Stevens said.

For Ramsay, the work begins right away. He’s already scouting players ahead of the new season and will be back on the ice next month for the Huskies’ rookie camp. Running May 6 and 7, the camp is for players born between 2003 and 2008. Cost to attend is $350, plus HST.