Ice Flyers start season with high expectations and new coach

Josh Cousineau enjoyed the biggest thrill of his hockey career back in May with the Pensacola Ice Flyers.

His game-winning shot as time expired in game three of the SPHL championship series against Peoria at the Bay Center secured a 5-4 win and the franchise’s third President’s Cup in the last four years.

He’s had the offseason to let the joy and the full meaning of that accomplishment sink in.

“It took a couple of months for it to sink in. It was a great experience,” Cousineau said at media day last Wednesday. “We hope we can do it again this year.”

But no two years are ever alike.

The roster has several new faces and the coach is new as well. Kevin Hasselberg enters his first year in the pro ranks after a successful run of nearly 20 years coaching junior hockey in western Canada.

What hasn’t changed, however, are the expectations in Pensacola.

“We want to raise the bar again, which is hard to do, but we expect to be the best,” Cousineau said. “We have put in the work to get better every day.”

Pensacola wrapped up training camp last Wednesday and opened its season this past weekend. Hasselberg is confident he put together the best 18-man roster possible and loves the energy and passion his players bring to the rink every day.

“We have a very confident group and a very enthusiastic group that is passionate about the game,” Hasselberg said. “The players want to be here and they are excited about competing together.”

Forwards Corey Banfield and Aaron Clarke, along with defenseman Brandon Blair, will lead the way as team captains.

Banfield admits it has taken time to adapt to playing for a new coach but he believes everything is moving in the right direction.

“There has been a bit of a learning curve but we are all rolling with the punches,” Banfield said. “We’re all learning as a team.”

Hasselberg said he’d be a fool not to love the situation he is in. He enjoys coming to the rink every day to work and couldn’t ask for a better opportunity than to be part of a franchise that as he says, “breeds success and does things the right way.”

Read more  in the Oct. 27 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.

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