NORTH BAY, Ont. – The North Bay Battalion’s defence corps was reduced by one Monday when Steven Duda informed the team that he is quitting hockey.
“He decided to pursue other options than hockey,” said Stan Butler, the Ontario Hockey League club’s director of hockey operations and head coach. “He’s going to go home and sort out his school options.”
Duda, a 19-year-old resident of Warrington, Pa., was signed as a free agent Sept. 19 after playing 52 games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He scored one goal and earned three assists in 23 games with the Troops.
“Steven did everything we asked of him as a player,” said Butler. “Sometimes a player just gets to the point where he decides his heart isn’t in it.”
The Battalion defence brigade now numbers six, including Kyle Wood, who has yet to play this season after knee surgery, and Miles Liberati, acquired in a trade with the London Knights last Tuesday. In addition, Shawn Tessier of the junior A North Bay Trappers has played seven games with the Troops, and left winger Connor Jarvis has been deployed on the blue line for 14 of his 22 games.
“We have five active defencemen here, and Woody’s coming back in a few weeks,” said Butler. “We’ll have Tessier here working with us today. And we can use Jarvis on defence as needed.”
The other rearguards are Dylan Blujus, who sat out the first 12 games of the season after knee surgery, Marcus McIvor, Brenden Miller and rookie Riley Bruce.
“He’s a skilled puck-moving defenceman who, as he gets more confidence, will only do better,” Butler said of the 18-year-old Liberati, who saw solid minutes in a 2-1 victory via shootout Saturday night over the host Barrie Colts after being acquired for overage blueliner Zach Bell and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.
“That was the most minutes he’s played all year. He’ll be a very good player for us, and that’s not to take anything away from Bell. He’s been good for them, too. That was a good trade, one that was good for both teams.”
The Battalion also added Ben Thomson via trade last week, with a fourth-round pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection from the Kitchener Rangers for fellow left winger Brandon Robinson.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)