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Cambridge native sets sights on Kitchener Rangers title run

Kitchener Rangers forward Joseph Serpa plans to use his recent time at the Chicago Blackhawks camp and the experiences of seasons past to lead the Rangers on a long run in 2022-23

Heading into his final season of junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers, forward and Cambridge native Joseph Serpa is going to do what he’s always done in his hockey career; work to capitalize on every opportunity in front of him.

Having to outwork his opposition is a position Serpa has become accustomed to throughout his career.

“I honestly think I have a great tool set to be a leader at this level because I’ve never been a guy that has had anything handed to me,” Serpa said.

“I’ve tooth and nailed it to get where I am.”

After putting up 40 points in 33 games for the Cambridge Hawks U16 AAA team in 2017-18, Serpa was the Rangers' fourth round selection in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League Draft.

Before arriving on East Avenue full-time, he spent 40 games with the Waterloo Siskins and helped them to a Sutherland Cup championship in 2019. It was a season that also saw him earn a nine game stint with the blueshirts.

“I think back then it was going to be tough for me to play at the OHL level,” he said.

“I feel I had the skills and the smarts but maybe wasn’t physically ready. We won the Sutherland Cup in Waterloo and it was a fun year. Playing nine games in Kitchener was also cool to get my feet wet.”

He made the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium his full-time home in 2019-2020, putting up 14 points in 50 games. It was a tough season to try and see the ice as the Rangers featured 11 NHL draft picks and were locked and loaded for a deep playoff run before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“My 17 year old year was tough,” Serpa said.

“It was my draft year. We had a good team and I was buried. Halfway through the year I was averaging something like four minutes a night. I think I took the right attitude to get better. I was trying to keep my confidence up.”

Then, the pandemic put the entire 2020-21 season on ice.

Undeterred, Serpa maintained his positive attitude throughout the cancelled season and it paid off. He exploded for 69 points in 62 games last season, adding another 15 points in 12 playoff games as the Rangers upset rival London in the first round.

Heading into this year’s campaign, Serpa will continue to rely on that season of limited ice time as he tries to lead the Rangers to the J. Ross Robertson Cup and a trip to Kamloops, BC for the Memorial Cup in May.

“I can relate to the younger guys on the team this year because I’ve been a guy that’s played four minutes a night,” Serpa.

“Then last year I was a key contributor and led the team in the playoffs. I started playing on the power play and penalty kill. It was the first year I got to do that since I played in Cambridge.”

For the first time in his career, his play caught the attention of National Hockey League teams. The Chicago Blackhawks invited him to their rookie camp but eventually returned him back to Kitchener for the start of the upcoming OHL season.

“It was a really good experience,” he said.

“It was good to get up there and see how everything is done at the professional level and now I can bring that back to Kitchener.”

While he would’ve liked an invite to Chicago’s main camp, he’s now put himself on the radar of scouts in hopes of having a long hockey career after his time in Kitchener is complete.

“Even though it didn't work out, I’ve given myself the opportunity to get looked at by other teams,” he said.

“Chicago said they were going to keep watching me. I knew I needed another year of junior hockey but I’ll hopefully keep talking to teams and turn as many heads as I can this year.”

For now, Serpa wants to enjoy his final season of junior hockey with his hometown team and bring a championship back to the city for the first time since 2008.

“Being a hometown kid and playing for the Rangers is a really rewarding feeling,” Serpa said.

“I'm looking for a hot start and to win here in Kitchener. If we win, everyone's happy and I want to be part of that.”

The Rangers season gets underway Friday night when they host the Sarnia Sting at 7:30 p.m.