Veteran members of the Revelstoke Grizzlies will be expected to lead the way when the team convenes for the 2017-18 KIJHL season this week.
“I’ve been travelling all over as usual. I think the recruiting went pretty well,” said coach Ryan Parent in an interview last week. “We’re going to be in good shape this year. We’re returning a good core group this year. I’m excited to see some leadership out of those guys.”
The Revelstoke Grizzlies start their training camp on Thursday, Aug. 24, and play their first exhibition game two days later when they host the Kelowna Chiefs at the Forum on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. On Monday, Aug. 28, they host the Golden Rockets and on Friday, Sept. 1, they host the Columbia Valley Rockies.
The regular season starts on Friday, Sept. 8, when the Kamloops Storm come to town. They face the Chase Heat the following night and then spend the rest of the month on the road.
While not naming too many names, Parent said he expects several players to return from last year’s team, including goaltender Giovanni Sambrielaz, second-leading scorer Jordan Rae, and feisty forward Tommy Bodtker. Local defenceman Ullar Wiatzka is aiming for a spot in Junior A, but Parent said he’d be welcome back if he doesn’t make it to the higher league.
“He’s a character kid and he wants to see the hometown win,” said Parent. “He loves playing in Revelstoke, we love having him.”
Two 16-year-olds who played minor hockey in Revelstoke are expected to be on the team — Matt Cadden, who played for the Delta Hockey Academy last year, and Ryder McCallum.
After finishing in fourth place and getting knocked out in the first round the past two seasons, the team’s goal will be to move into upper echelon of the Doug Birks Division, which has been dominated by Chase, Kamloops and 100 Mile House the last four seasons.
“I think at this point, our focus is still to make the playoffs but we want to do some damage this year,” said Parent. “We want to be a team that contends and competes every night and I think we have the group to do that.”
He said he expects the division to be just as tough again this year. He will be looking on the vets to set the example for the rookies to follow.
“It does fall on the coaching,” he said. “I think you have to have the engine to go, and I think when you return a core group of players, you’re looking for some leadership out of those guys early on to make your season a solid one.”
Off the ice, Parent has once again dipped into his Czech connections for an assistant coach. This year, he will be joined behind the bench by Lukas Lomicky, who has coached junior hockey in the Czech Republic.
Parent said the Czechs are “very detailed and skill oriented.”
“I think the last three years we’ve had a real skill component that’s been added to our team,” he said. “Their skill and skating has been vastly improved by mid-season due to the work they get.”
Away from the arena, the team is still looking for billets to house the players. If you’re interested, call Mavis Cann at 250-814-7217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.