The McLean & Dickey Orillia Terriers made some 'big' roster transactions ahead of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) trade deadline on Monday.
The team has bolstered their defence by adding Josh Harrison and Taylor Rehling. The Jr. C team has also given their forward group a boost by adding Dylan Palomaki and Jake Ventrella.
Ventrella, a former North Central Predator AAA player, only played in nine games for the rival Stayner Siskins this season; he netted four assists in those contests.
“For some reason, sometimes things just don’t work out. Whether it’s what you're good at isn’t what they are looking for, or they feel they have better options at that position,” explained Terriers President Andrew McDonald of Ventrella's limited ice time in Stayner.
“Jake just wasn’t getting played the way he should, and we’ve ended up as the beneficiaries of that. He’s a great kid and he’ll be huge for us in playoffs.”
Palomaki is another former North Central Predator who scored 27 points in 32 games at the AAA level during the 2019-20 season. He signed with the Terriers last year but set his sights on a Jr. A career. However, Palomaki recently decided to stay close to home and play for the Terriers.
“There is no way I could have picked up a player of his talent and calibre at this point in the year before the COVID pandemic. We are really lucky to have him, and he’s super excited to be here,” McDonald said.
“The only player I could compare him to on our hockey team is Josh Brown, same kind of game, skates real fast, and he can make a goalie sick.”
Harrison was also acquired from the Stayner Siskins. Harrison only played in one game this season due to other life commitments. Harrison is also a former North Central Predator, scoring eight points in 26 games during the 2018-19 season.
“He has a solid skillset, he’s not huge, but he plays the position well,” McDonald said.
“I wanted good defencemen who could bring something to our team. Stayner is well off at the position this year. We didn’t want to move any players, they knew it was a cash-only deal. They offered us Josh Harrison and we were happy to sign him.”
With the Terriers being just three points back of the Siskins for the lead in the North Carruthers Division, some junior hockey fans might find it odd that Stayner would help Orillia improve their hockey club. However, McDonald says the deal is good for both squads.
“We were willing to spend the money to get better. They knew if they wanted maximum money and have a no-headache deal, they were going to offer these guys up,” he said.
“They could have offered them to other teams, but they didn’t need players in return. They were in a position where they needed to move players and knowing what we were looking for maybe helped them decide who they were going to move to do well in the deal.”
Rehling, a former Midland Flyer, started his junior career with the Terriers in 2019-20 when he posted up 9 points in 21 games.
“It’s probably my favourite deal that I’ve made in the last five years. When I traded Rehling to Midland I did not want to do it, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done," McDonald said.
"I’ve known him since he was 13 years old. I’ve been following his hockey career, and I knew what he brought to our team which is toughness, steady defence, and big boy checks."
McDonald says Rehling used to be a fan favourite in Orillia and bringing him back into the fold is a ‘no brainer'.
To make roster space, the Terriers moved forward Jack Ahern to the Georgina Ice of the East Orr division and defenceman Christian Cooper to the Midland Flyers.
“They are both great kids who showed up to the rink every night ready to work. The worst part of being in a general manager type role with a junior hockey team is sometimes you have to let good kids go,” McDonald said.
McDoanld says the deals will help the Terriers both in the short term and long term.
“We needed to help our defence, and it’s not a knock on our defencemen. We are really young in the back end and a little inexperienced with very little AAA pedigree on the blue line. We think we have now fixed that,” he said.
“We have bolstered our scoring with Palomaki and Ventrella; they should help us play better hockey against better teams."
McDonald noted that Harrison and Rehling are eligible for two more seasons after the 2021/22 campaign. Palomaki and Ventrella are eligible for three more seasons.
“As long as nothing comes up in life that pulls them away, and they are all happy to be Terriers, then we will be happy to have them well into the future,” he said.
“It’s big for this year's team and it will be huge for upcoming years.”
The Terriers season is currently paused due to restrictions that have been put in place by the Ontario government to combat the recent surge in COVID-19 cases prompted by the Omicron variant.
The team is scheduled to return to Rotary Place on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m.