Estero, Fla.- The Florida Jr. Blades graduate five players to the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Players include: defensemen Ross Kovacs, Ty Lasker and Blake O'Neill, forward J.P. Larmoyeux and goaltender Joe Keyser.
The 2011-2012 record-setting Florida Jr. Blades have five graduates heading north of the border for the up coming season. "We push players to their limits and then some with intense on and off ice workouts," said Jr. Blades head coach and general manager Tad O'Had. "I know they're ready for the next level because in Florida, the rigors and training these guys go through will break them if they aren't true hockey players."
Former Jr. Blades Ty Lasker, Joe Keyser, J.P. Larmoyeux, Blake O'Neill and Ross Kovacs will be heading to Canada to join the Cobourgh Cougars (Keyser and Lasker) and Kingston Voyageurs (Larmoyeux, O"Neill and Kovacs) of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). The OJHL represents one of the finest Tier II Jr. A programs in North America and is a suitable place for the talented Jr. Blades graduates.
The winning attitude, training and quality of development appealed to coaches in Kingston and Cobourgh. "I am really impressed with the Florida Jr. Blades program. In terms of structure, dedication and development it's as good as any development program I have seen on either side of the border," said Colin Birkas, head coach of the Kingston Voyageurs. "The players have access to a great facility, staff and instruction. It is clear that coach O'Had's players graduate ready for the next level, whether it be juniors or college."
For the 2012-2013 season Jr. Blades Ross Kovacs, Blake O'Neill and J.P. Larmoyeux will call Kingston home.
Kovacs, a 6-foot-3 defender from Dickinson, North Dakota anchored the Jr. Blades blue line and is known for his composure on and off the ice. An Empire League All-Star and NAHL draftee he joins Jr. Blades teammate Blake O'Neill in defending the Voyageurs defensive end. "The OJHL is a high level league that has had a lot of success placing its players to the next level," said Kovacs. "Kingston is a rich hockey town with a tradition of winning I am really looking forward to stepping on the ice and showcasing my abilities."
Fellow teammate Blake O'Neill is a talented '94 defender with a large offensive upside. "I like to be responsible for the puck, but when I see an opportunity I take it," said O'Neill. "Sometimes you get an opportunity with a bad change or someone gets a little lazy. That's when I'm dangerous." Opportunities presented themselves for O'Neill who recorded 12 goals and 20 assists in 39 games for the Jr. Blades.
When looking for offensive output, the Voyageurs didn't have far to go. J.P. Larmoyeux played along side both Kovacs and O'Neill. Larmoyeux recorded 79 points (31g, 48a) in 40 games for the Jr. Blades during their campaign. Known as a talented playmaker, the 6-foot-1 forward from West Palm, Fla. is fully prepared for the season ahead. "I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve up north," said Larmoyeux. "Kingston is such a great hockey town and I am looking forward to playing against tougher competition. It's gonna be a blast facing off against the Cougars I have been spending the past two years trying to score on Keyser in practice and it will be nice to do it in front of the home crowd."
Joe Keyser, the Jr. Blades starting goaltender, joins teammate Ty Lasker on the Cobourg Cougars. "We are very excited to welcome Ty and Joe to our organization," said Cougars head coach Curtis Hodgins. "We look forward to working with both players and helping them achieve their hockey goals. Coming from such a well respected program like the Florida Jr. Blades means both players will be prepared and ready to assist our club in having a very successful 2012-13 OJHL season."
Keyser, known for his inscrutable expression, lead the Empire Junior Hockey League in goaltending statistics. Playing over 1200 minutes in the 2011-12 season, he had a .940 save percentage and 1.49 goals against average- first in all league goalies. Having spent the past two seasons in Florida, training and fine-tuning his skills, Keyser is excited to be heading to Cobourg. "This is a dream come true to be able to head north and play Jr. A in Canada for a quality club like the Cougars," said Keyser. "It feels good to know that hard work pays off."
Joining him is defenseman Ty Lasker. "Lasker is a two-way defenseman with huge potential," said O'Had. "He reads plays well and can be counted on in pressure situations." Lasker lead all defensemen in the league with over a point per game average. He accumulated 48 points(12g, 36a) in 40 games for the Jr. Blades. "I've spent my last two years of juniors in Boston and Florida," said Lasker. "I have learned a lot and can't wait to take the ice under a coach as respected as coach Curtis Hodgins."
The once teammates will face each other numerous times this season with both sides determined to win. This comes as no surprise to O'Had who encouraged his players and their dreams. "Never take a shift off. Hockey is a way of life up north and their play will be a representation of the Florida Jr. Blades so compete and never back down from a challenge," said O'Had.
While there are bittersweet moments the overwhelming feeling is one of pride for the Jr. Blades organization and staff. "We take a great deal of pride in moving our players onto the next level," said O'Had. "The Jr. Blades are a family and these young-men have worked so hard for FJB we couldn't be prouder of them. To have five Blades players going to two great programs just continues to confirm that we are developing talent and helping these great kids achieve their goals."