Rocket pair share bond

Charles Reid
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Former first-rounders Duffy, Noël looking to take on more responsibilities this season

P.E.I. Rocket head coach Gordie Dwyer goes over a play during a team practice Wednesday in Cornwall.

Forwards Ben Duffy and Alex Noël have much more in common than just being at P.E.I. Rocket training camp in Pownal.  

Both are former first-round picks, both are going into their fourth Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season and both, at 19 years of age, are facing greater responsibilities this season.

Still, Noël is looking forward to the challenge. 

“(It’s) not more responsibility, it’s more my confidence is higher. I’m a veteran, I know what to expect. I’m going to try to have a bigger role this year and set a good example,” Noël said after practice Wednesday. “It’s a hard league to play in. There are a lot of games.”

Val-d’Or picked the Dieppe, N.B., native 15th overall in 2008.

Duffy, who the Rocket selected fifth overall in 2008, had his best season statistically last year, racking up a team-leading 81 points (37 goals, 44 assists) in 61 games. 

It’s true the centre was helped by the talented wingers Philippe Paradis and Andrej Nestrasil, both gone to the American Hockey League, but Duffy said he won’t rest on those laurels.

“Those guys helped a lot. But after having the year I had, I’m a lot more confident,” said the Lower Sackville, N.S., native. “A long as I’m confident and play my game, I’ll be okay. It’s time for me to step up, show the younger guys what it’s like to play in this league.”

Noël was a trade pickup from Gatineau at Christmas. 

After a slow start (13 points in 32 games with Olympiques), he finished with a solid 23 points in 31 games with P.E.I., good for 14 goals and 36 points overall. 

He and Duffy bonded quickly, sharing ice time on the same line occasionally and starting a game-time ritual at the Civic Centre where at the one-minute remaining mark one would only leave the ice after the other.

As centres, the pair won’t likely skate on the same line.

But you never know what might happen when new head coach Gordie Dwyer starts setting up the forwards, said Noël.

“Lines aren’t written in stone. It’s going to be a fun year,” said Noël.

As for Duffy,  Dwyer is his third head coach since 2008.

And so far, so good.

“He’s an intense guy. But it’s not like we’re out (on the ice) a long time,” said Duffy. “That’s what he wants, short intense practices. We’re all buying in.”

The lone cut on Wednesday was goaltender Jonathan Boutin, 17. 

Newly-acquired netminder Antoine Bibeau, 17, is expected to be at practice today at 10 a.m. in Pownal.

The Rocket’s next pre-season game is Saturday versus the Saint John Sea Dogs in Quispamsis, N.B. 

Game time is 7 p.m.   

Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, American Hockey League, Civic Centre

Geographic location: Pownal, Dieppe, Lower Sackville Quispamsis

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