It was standing room only for the Milton Menace’s first-ever home game at Memorial Arena Friday. More than 1,000 fans were at the sold-out event, (OJHL photo)


The newly-minted Milton Menace took their first regular season on-ice steps last night at their venerable home Memorial Arena against fellow West Division foes the Burlington Cougars.

Behind the bench in their inaugural season as head coach is Justin Peca, whose previous OJHL coaching experience included stints with Villanova, Steetsville and Newmarket. Most recently, he was an assistant coach for the ECHL’s Brampton Beast.

The owner is Jason Tryfon, the GM is Dan Del Monte, while the director of operations is Paige Dixon, the first female to have this role in the OJHL (and possibly in Canada). Jeff Angelidis, who spent the last three seasons behind the bench of the Toronto Junior Canadiens, is associate coach.

Junior teams in Milton have gone by four different monikers in the past: Flyers (1970-1983), Steamers (1983-1986), Merchants (1986-2003) and IceHawks (2003-2018).

It’s a new look as you enter the arena with the Menace logo proudly displayed all around, the black theme possibly designed to intimidate visiting teams.

The rear wall displays the banner ‘Home of the Milton Menace’ and the hash tags ‘Let the Menace commence and ‘Fear the Darkness’ abound. Merchandise – hoodies, polos, shirts, hats and the like – were moving at a brisk pace and young fans received Menace mini-sticks as they came in.

A well-produced pre-game ceremony introduced the management, staff and players to the crowd of more than 1,000, who somehow shoehorned themselves into the arena. Latecomers, as they walked a distance from their car, were told it was standing room only.

Moments later, it was sold out.

Local minor hockey teams of both sexes took part in the ceremony.

The crowd erupted as ex-Burlington Cougar goalkeeper Noah Featherstonhaugh-Gowe led the club on to the ice.

The Menace, a young squad, iced just three players in their last season in Junior: Dante Jones, Marcus Didiano and Gowe. Their historic starting lineup featured blueliners Freddie Ilias and Noah Church with Jones, Chris Ishmael and Didiano up front.

Ishmael, the former Hamilton Kilty Bee who had a prolonged battle with mononucleosis last season, scored both of the Menace goals as they fell to the Cougars 5-2.

The historic first one came 30 seconds into the period two and it was on a powerplay. His second, allowed after a meeting of the minds of the officials, was the final one of the game with just over seven minutes gone in the second stanza.

The Cougars led 3-0 after one on goals by rookie Sam Watson, returnee Harrison Cottam and Joel Haltrop (shorthanded). Matthew Giannini and Brendan Rylott scored in the second period for the winners. After the fifth Cougar goal, Featherstonhaugh-Gowe was replaced by rookie Nico Fekete as backup ‘keeper Forbes Anderson is on the injured list.

Despite the loss the large crowd gave their new ‘hometown heroes’ a nice hand at the end of the game.

Sunday, the Menace have their second home game with the 2018 OJHL champion and 2019 finalist Wellington Dukes in town.

Follow Ron Valentine on Twitter @ronandlynda