Aldergrove Kodiaks first regular season game on Wednesday, Sept. 8 marked a return to the ice after a frustrating 2020-21 season that ended prematurely. (file)

Aldergrove Kodiaks make a long-awaited return to the ice as regular season gets underway

This time, fans of the PJHL franchise can attend

It may not have been the ideal way to start a new season, but the Aldergrove Kodiaks still played a respectable brand of hockey against the Abbotsford Pilots on Wednesday, Sept. 8, the start of regular season action in the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL).

The fact it ended 3-2 in favour of the Pilots doesn’t reflect the way the Kodiaks outshot their rivals, 41 to 24, and hit seven goalposts, according to Kodiaks owner and General Manager Rick Harkins.

“We’re notorious slow starters,” Harkins remarked.

“We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we’re competitive,” Harkins told the Langley Advance Times, calling it a “respectable showing.”

“I thought we dominated the play but we didn’t get the end result [we wanted], but that’s hockey,” Harkins remarked.

“We’re a young team and we like their effort.”

READ ALSO: Kodiaks captain who championed the PJHL is back, this time as head coach

Kodiaks coach Chris Price, a former team captain, is good at seeing where mistakes are made, Harkins observed, and players can expect to be drilled on those mistakes in the days after the game.

Playing in the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre (ACUCC), the first regular season game marked a return to the ice after a frustrating 2020-21 season that ended prematurely.

Citing pandemic concerns, the league shut down the season after the Kodiaks had managed get in just six games, winning four to take first place in their cohort.

As well, there were no spectators allowed because the number of players, coaches, and crew members in the rink at one time, were at the limit of 50 permitted under COVID-19 protocols.

Now, fans can attend.

For their first game, Kodiaks were allowed a maximum of 250, and that since has been raised to 450, roughly half the capacity of the ACUCC.

“It sure beats playing in front of nobody,” Harkins observed. “It gets them back to the way hockey should be played.”

The next few games will pose a challenge to the Kodiaks, with several players away trying out for Junior A teams.

“We’re going to lose some for a few weeks, Harkins cautioned.

“It’ll be tough sledding.”

Kodiaks won’t have a full roster, but will be able to put enough players on the ice, he assured, but that may involve calling up affiliates (junior players from lower-level leagues).

“We’re hopeful they’ll be local kids.”

Most years, the Kodiaks have had about 10 to 12 affiliate players, below the PJHL maximum of 19, Harkins elaborated.

Their policy, Harkins said, is to have the juniors get in one or two games during the season, a chance for the young players to play at a higher level and for the team to get a good look at potential future prospects.

READ ALSO: Aldergrove Kodiaks start COVID restricted season with a roar

Members of the Harold Brittain Conference of the PJHL, the Kodiaks joined the league in 2008 as an expansion team.

During its time in the league, the team has won the PJHL Championship three times, in 2010, 2014 and 2017.

On Saturday Sept 11, playing an away game, the Kodiaks were edged 2-1 by the North Vancouver Wolf Pack in a contest where goalies kept the scoring low despite both team tallying 31 shots on goal.

Kodiaks’ next three home games were scheduled for Sept 15, against Grandview Steelers, Sept 22 versus the Chilliwack Jets, and Sept 29 against Surrey Knights.

All home games start at 7:15 p.m. with a pre-game warmup at 6:45 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at the door: $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and teens.

Masks are mandatory and effective Monday, Sept. 13, audience members will be asked to provide proof of vaccination.

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Langley Advance Times