GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Capital Region offers a wealth of young hockey talent, but after many years with no junior hockey league team in the area, it was difficult to keep that talent local after the players graduated high school. The Adirondack Junior Thunder aims to solve that problem.

The Junior Thunder out of Glens Falls has begun preparation for its inaugural season in the Eastern Hockey League Premier. The roster features players ages 16 to 20. Enlisted to coach the new squad is American Hockey League Hall of Famer and former Adirondack Red Wings head coach Glenn Merkosky.

Merkosky’s intentions for the newly established team transcends the win-loss column. “What we want to do is give kids coming up through youth hockey and the Capital District area a chance to stay local, play hockey in the local area beyond high school, and they don’t have to pack up and move away from home,” said Merkosky. “The local support has been outstanding for our team, whether it’s been businesses stepping up to help out, and do that kind of thing. But a big part of it is building some pride—a lot of civic pride.”

Junior Thunder general manager Jeff Mead shines a light on the circumstances hockey players face upon graduation from high school and stressed a need for a junior hockey team in Glens Falls to foster the careers of local athletes. “The way the hockey world works now is kids are not going from high school directly to college unless they’re the most elite athlete in North America,” said Mead. “Most of these athletes nowadays are finishing their high school career, looking for a junior program for two, or three years, then trying to play NCAA hockey at age 20, or 21. So, we’re certainly looking to fill that gap between high school and NCAA college.”

Coach Merkosky admits that he and the rest of the front office struggled early to piece together a roster as a newly-formed EHLP unit. But as the preseason has progressed, word has spread about the flair this Junior Thunder team will offer. It also doesn’t hurt to be playing home games at a professional venue: Cool Insuring Arena.

“At the start we were pulling our hair out a little bit, going, ‘How are we going to get this thing up and going?'” said Merkosky. “As we’ve brought on good players, other good players have come out, and scrimmaged with us here, and they’re saying, ‘I want to be a part of that.’ It’s kind of snowballed from there to the point I think we’re going to have a very, very competitive team in our first year.”

Picked up in that snowball have been players like Jack Randall, a league all-star with the Vermont Lumberjacks last season, who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay close to home, compete in a professional atmosphere, and learn from a veteran head coach.

“After playing this league for two years, I feel very accustomed to it,” said Randall. “This year, especially with a great coach—all of us, we have a lot of vets on the team, so it’ll be great. Like, we’re all experienced. We know what’s coming. I think we’ll have a really good shot this season.”

Coach Merkosky believes fans can expect to see a high-scoring, fast-paced team primed to compete with the best teams the EHLP has to offer. Training camp begins in early September for the Junior Thunder, and the regular season kicks off on September 17 from Cool Insuring Arena against Vermont.