2014-2015 Season Preview
Posted September 4th, 2014 @ 11:23 am
Viterra AJHL North Division
Bonnyville (26-28-6; 58 pts---lost to Sherwood Park in first round)
The Bonnyville Pontiacs went through a plethora of changes this past summer as they try and forget an early exit from last year’s post season. The Pontiacs did lose their top two scorers from last season, F Spencer Foo (67 pts) is heading to the NCAA, and F Jackson Dudley (51 pts) was one of six players to age out from last year’s team. Other players that aged out include; D Redford Swan (24 pts), F Locke Muller (22 pts), Dallas Mortensen (6 pts), F Thomas Cunningham (5 pts) and G Stephen Klein (13-20-1; 3 shutouts; 3.41 GAA; 0.893 save%). The Pontiacs also traded F Alex Smith (20 pts) to the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL, in exchange the Pontiacs acquired F Dylan McCombie (22 pts). With only 13 potential returning players coming to camp this Fall, Pontiacs Head Coach, Rick Swan had some holes to fill. The team will look to Luke Mahura and Steenn Pasichnuk to lead the way offensively. On the back end the Pontiacs were younger last season and are returning four defensemen from last year’s team. Between the pipes, Joey Desrosiers will look to push Josh Erickson for the starting job. The question for the Pontiacs will be can a more veteran team compete with and make a move into the North Finals for the first time in franchise history. Bonnyville will start the 2014/2015 season with a two game road trip in Grande Prairie (September 5th and 6th), before returning home for two games (September 12th vs Lloydminster and September 20th vs Grande Prairie).
Drayton Valley (22-33-5; 49 pts---lost to Fort McMurray in the first round)
The Drayton Valley Thunder had some disappointment last year in the playoffs falling to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in three games. Drayton Valley will be returning their top scorer from last season, F Trevor Poirier (39 pts) as well as their number one goaltender Marc Olivier Daigle (16-20-1; 2 shutouts; 3.01 GAA; 0.908 save %). The Thunder had just three players age out from their 2013/2014 team; D Dallen Hall (29 pts), D Corey Scammon (17 pts), and G Kris Drott (3-1-1; 1 shutout; 2.60 GAA; 0.930 save%). Drayton Valley was busy on the trade front sending F Dylan Bredahl (11 pts), F Connor Vermeulen (3 pts) and F Mathieu Lapointe (9 pts) to MJHL’s Dauphin Kings, in exchange for D Marc Eremenko (2 pts). The Thunder acquired D Joseph Leonidas (3 pts) from the Whitecourt Wolverines for G Mitch Martell (3-13-2; 4.03 GAA; 0.878 save %). With 19 players potentially returning to training camp it meant that Head Coach Mike Mueller didn’t have a lot of holes to fill. He says “I’m happy with the guys we’ve recruited and they have been fitting in well with the veterans. We have a lot of returning players and the guys we’ve recruited are pushing the veterans in camp”. Drayton Valley got off to a slow start last season but finished strong and will be looking to continue that momentum into the 2014/2015 season. Up front the Thunder are returning two of their top four scorers (Trevor Poirier and Brett Smythe) to lead the way offensively. On the back end the defensive core is now a year older and will be expected to keep the shot total down. That being said if the defense can’t keep the shot total down they have arguably one of the best goaltenders between the pipes in Marc Olivier Daigle. The question for the Thunder is can they come together early in the season and continue the success they had late in the 2013/2014 season or will another slow start have them battling to get into the playoffs? Drayton Valley will open up with a two game road trip in Fort McMurray, (September 5th and 6th) before returning home for a two game home stand (September 13th vs. Lloydminster and September 19th vs. Sherwood Park).
Fort McMurray (45-11-4; 94 pts---lost in the North Finals to Spruce Grove)
The biggest change this season for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons is behind the bench as the Oil Barons parted ways with Gord Thibodeau and hired Curtis Hunt who will take over the Head Coach and GM duties. Last year the Oil Barons came within an overtime goal of going to the Gas Drive Cup Finals. Six players from last year’s team aged out including leading scorer F Ryan Bloom (72 pts), F Brennan Saulnier (49 pts), D Austin Yadlowski (28 pts), D Curtis Lewington (20 pts), D Louis Joseph Sawyer (10 pts) and G Tanner Jaillet (30-8-4; 2 shutouts; 2.01 GAA; 0.933 save %) Fort McMurray had three players leave the team for post secondary opportunities: F Kevin Miller (54 pts), F Alex Cromwell (25 pts), and F Mitchell Byrne (23 pts). F Danton Davis (1 pt) was traded to Camrose this summer. There will be a battle between the pipes as Jesse Gordichuck, who backed up Jaillet last year and Zach Fortin who played 27 games last year with Rimouski of the QMJHL for the starter’s role. Up front, the Oil Barons will look to Jetlan Houcher to lead the way. Houcher was second in scoring on the team last year with 64 points. On the back end, 20 year olds John Teets and Zach Wittenburg will be looked on to help lead what could be a younger defensive core. With the potential of 12 returning players Coach Hunt had to fill in some gaps, but he didn’t bring in a lot of players to fill those holes. “We had a smaller camp this Fall, probably because of the transition.” In my opinion, a smaller camp may not be a bad thing for the Oil Barons who came within one goal of going to the Gas Drive Cup Final. With a new head coach there is always a possibility that veteran players may not get along with the new guy, but Coach Hunt quickly wanted to nip that in the butt. “The most important thing is the players. We held a camp in July to get to know the players and have them get to know me.” What may be interesting is the number of players that the Oil Barons recruited from Southern Alberta. “Our Southern connections came from our Head Scout Doug Hergenhein. We (the Oil Barons) have a reputation that has allowed us to bring these kids up to Fort McMurray. We want to make sure we cover the entire province.” Being ranked number one in the country puts early pressure on the Oil Barons. The question will be can they withstand the pressure with hosting the Western Canada Cup? Fort McMurray will open up the season with a two game home stand against the Drayton Valley Thunder (Sept 5th and 6th)
Grande Prairie Storm (21-36-3; 45 pts---missed the playoffs)
Last year wasn’t the season that the Storm were expecting as for the first time in franchise history the team would not appear in the post season. That led to a ton of changes over the summer that had the team return just 12 players to the 2014 training camp. Six players aged out from last year’s team including leading scorer Ryan Baskerville (36 pts), other players that aged out from last season were: F Jordan McTaggart (25 pts), F Tyson McCallum (24 pts), D Dalton Olsen (21 pts), D Drew Nikirk (4 pts). G Nick Kulmanovsky (18-32-3; 2 shutouts; 3.40 GAA; 0.902 save%). Other players that have departed last years team include: F Toby Shattler who was traded to the LaRonge Ice Wolves of the SJHL. F Stephen Doan was traded to the Okotoks Oilers. F Chase Thudium was traded to Nipawin Hawks of the MJHL, in exchange the Storm acquired F Taylor Balog (49 pts). D Sasha Larocque was sent to the Drumheller Dragons for G Adam Beukeboom (played 5 games last year in the AJHL; 2.36 GAA; 0.917 save %). The Storm also acquired F Hayden Berra (22 pts) from the Winkler Flyers (MJHL). Head Coach and GM Kevin Higo said ``We aren’t even thinking about last year. Most of the players on this year’s team weren’t here, so I feel we’ve turned the page and look forward to getting back to Storm hockey.” With the potential of 12 returning players coming to the 2014 training camp that meant coach Higo had some work to do to fill out his roster for the upcoming season, “I’ve been very happy with the recruiting we did this summer. We were able to fill in some age gaps and that has made camp very competitive.” Expect Adam Beukeboom to get a bulk of the starts for the Storm this season. Offensively, the team hopes that 19 year old F Jade McMullen can help the team score more goals. On the back end, Grande Prairie is returning four defensemen, including 20 year old Braeden Jones. The question for the Storm will be can they forget the disappointing season last year or will they once again be watching the playoffs come March? Grande Prairie will kick off the 2014/2015 season with a four game home stand (September 5th and 6th vs Bonnyville, September 12th and 13th vs Fort McMurray).
Lloydminster Bobcats (31-23-6; 68 pts---lost in second round to Fort McMurray)
The Lloydminster Bobcats were the AJHL’s most improved team last year advancing to the second round before losing to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in seven games. Lloydminster will be without their top four scorers from last season who aged out. No longer with the team are: F Tanner Dunkle (54 pts), F Braden Crone (48 pts), F Austin McDonald (44 pts), and F Grant Baker (30 pts). The Bobcats also made a couple of trades during the offseason, sending D Brock Weston (13 pts) to the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars for D Latrell Charlson (27 pts). They would also send G Sean Kuehn (9-5-2; 3.22 GAA; 0.861 save%) to the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires for F Ashton Clark (6 pts). Head Coach and General Manager Gary VanHereweghe’s commented on the summer recruiting, “We have the potential to return 18 players but may only have 13 or 14 players return from last year’s team”. The bar has been set pretty high after last year’s success. Coach VanHereweghe stated “We didn’t get all the results we wanted, but we took a big stride forward. Obtaining what we got last year isn’t good enough, we want to bypass that this year”. In goal, the Bobcats found a gem in Christopher Tai late last season. Expect him to get most of the starts this year. Up front Eric Therrien will be looked upon to help lead the offence. Defenseman and Lloydminster’s own Linden Springer was named captain this past summer. He will be looked upon to not only lead the defensive core but also the team. The question for the Bobcats is can they improve on last year’s success as they get ready to host the 2016 RBC cup or will they struggle against a very tough North Division? The Bobcats open up the season with a pair of home games (September 5th vs Sherwood Park, September 10th vs Fort McMurray).
Sherwood Park Crusaders (29-28-3; 61 pts---lost in the second round to Spruce Grove)
For the third straight season the Sherwood Park Crusaders saw their season come to an end in the second round of the playoffs. The Crusaders may be in tough this season as they are going to be without their top five scorers from last year (Jones, MacTavish, Taverner, Belter and Massie). Heading to college this season are; F Nicolas Jones (72 pts), F Sean MacTavish (72 pts), F Andrew Taverner (62 pts), and D Marshall Donald (27 pts). Aging out are: F Caleb Belter (34 pts), F Dillon Massie (33 pts), and F Colten Meaver (21 pts). Crusaders head Coach Tim Fragle potentially had 17 players returning from last year’s team which doesn’t leave a lot of holes to fill. In goal, Tommy Nixon and Zac Klassen are once again expected to split the time between the pipes with Nixon probably getting more starts. Offense will be the biggest hole to be filled for the Crusaders as they head into this season needing to rebuild their top six forwards. On the back end expect Dane Phaneuf to help lead a veteran defensive core. The question for the Crusaders will be can they replace the scoring talent that they lost from last season or will they need to rely on a more sound defensive strategy? The Crusaders will open up the season on the road in Lloydminster on September 5th before returning home on September 12th to take on Spruce Grove.
Spruce Grove Saints (47-10-3; 97 pts---Won Gas Drive Cup, lost in runner up game in WCC)
At the beginning of last season Head Coach Jason Mckee said “This is the year everyone in the North has been waiting 10 years for as we are rebuilding and have a younger team”. That wasn’t the case as Mckee’s Spruce Grove Saints would end up winning the Gas Drive Cup. The Saints should be the early favorite to repeat as Gas Drive Cup champions with 16 potential players returning to this year’s team. The Saints had five players age out: F Nathan Smith (40 pts), D Corey Chorneyko (32 pts), F Connor Hoekstra (16 pts), D Geoffrey Crisfield (8 pts), and G Kenny Cameron (34-7-3; 3 shutouts; 2.21 GAA; 0.910 save %). The Saints also had three more players move on to college: F Cameron Hughes (57 pts), F Dylan Hollman (42 pts), and D Brandon Hickey (22 pts). The Saints acquired D Zach Paterson (2 pts) from the Whitecourt Wolverines, and then sent D Gabe Bast (1 pt) to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. The leading scorer from last year, Parker Mackay will once again be looked upon to help lead the way offensively. On the back end, the Saints could return four defensemen from last year’s team. Perhaps the biggest question for the Saints will be in goal as Kenny Cameron graduated from junior hockey last year, however, Tanner McCorriston has proven himself to be a very capable starter going 13-3 last year. The question for the Saints will be is this the year the bubble will burst or will the Saints continue to dominate the North Division? The Saints open up the season with a home and home against Whitecourt (Sept 5th at Whitecourt and Sept 6th at home).
Whitecourt Wolverines (26-31-3; 55 pts---lost in the first round to Lloydminster)
It has been a very busy off season for the Wolverines after they fell in the first round to the Lloydminster Bobcats. Six players aged out at the end of last season including leading scorer F Colten Mayor (75 pts). Also aging out from last year was: D Matthew Abt (42 pts), F Sam Lawson (41 pts), D Gianni Mangone (37 pts), and G Mac Engle (9-19-0; 2 shutouts; 3.47 GAA; 0.894 save %). Also leaving the team and heading to college was the team’s second leading scorer last year F Ryan Berlin (54 pts). F Trace Elson (59 pts) will start the season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. Whitecourt was also busy on the trade front. D Joseph Leonidas (3 pts) was traded to the Drayton Valley Thunder in exchange for G Mitch Martell (3-13-2; 4.03 GAA; 0.878 save %). G Riley Corbin (2-3-1; 3.72 GAA; 0.884 save %) was sent to the MHL’s Summerside Western Capitals, and D Zach Paterson (2 pts) was sent to the Spruce Grove Saints. In turn, the Wolverines would acquire F John Mullally (34 pts) from the MHL’s Weeks Crushers, and D Michale Guerrera (12 pts) from the CCHL’s Hawkesbury Hawks. To help fill in the goaltending tandem the Wolverines picked up Simon Lemieux (2.54 GAA) from the QMJHL’s Baie Comeau Drakkar. Head Coach Joey Bouchard will have a new look to his team with only 10 returning players from last year. Up front new team captain Evan Warrmington will help lead the way offensively. Defensively the Wolverines are returning a trio of defensemen. While in goal Whitecourt Native Mitch Martel will look to challenge Simon Lemieux for the starters role. The question for the Wolverins will be can they consistently string wins together and make a strong push for the top four in the division or will they be left posturing for playoff positioning? Whitecourt will open up the season with a home and home series against Spruce Grove (September 5th at home and September 6th on the road).
Viterra AJHL South Division
Brooks Bandits (39-13-8; 86 pts---lost in the South Final to Drumheller)
The Brooks Bandits will look to get back to the Gas Drive Cup Finals after falling to the Drumheller Dragons in the semi-finals last year. The Bandits are going to lose their top three scorers from last year’s team (Petruzzelli, Smiley and McCormack). Six players aged out: F Anthony Petruzzelli (53 pts), D Nick McCormack (39 pts), F Brandon Bruce (25 pts), F Patrick Chore (16 pts), D Eric Chevrier (14 pts), and D Shane Pilling (8 pts). Four players are heading to the NCAA: D Madison Smiley (41 pts), F Jake Larson (35 pts), D Braton Bilous (17 pts), and F Patrick Lee (13 pts). The Bandits also made a couple of trades this summer sending G Daniel Urbani (6-3-2; 2.40 GAA; 0.913 save %) to the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles in exchange for D Matthew Dawson (34 pts). The Bandits also acquired F Cory Caruso (36 pts) from the OJHL’s Hamilton Red Wings. In turn the Bandits sent D Brandon Tkachuk (6 pts) to the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs. Head Coach Ryan Papaioannou potentially has 12 players returning from last year’s team which left some holes to fill and Papaioannou was busy recruiting all over the Canada and the United Sates. Up front Anthony Paskaruk and Madison Dunn will be expected to lead the way offensively. On the back end Shane Bear and Nathan Bizeau are the only returning defensemen from last year. In between the pipes Michael Fredrick will probably get a bulk of the games again as he gets set for his final year of junior hockey. The question for the Bandits will be can they continue to show their dominance in the South Division or will they struggle to recover from three straight deep playoff runs that includes the 2013 RBC Cup? Brooks will start the season at home on September 12th vs Camrose.
Calgary Canucks (15-42-3; 33 pts---missed the playoffs)
The Calgary Canucks had their worst season in franchise history last year and will look to bounce back this year. The Canucks knew they weren’t going to make the playoffs near the trade deadline which encouraged the team to trade their 20 year olds to contending teams. The Canucks have the potential to return 21 players from last year’s team. The Canucks can do nothing but go up after a disappointing season last year that saw them win just 15 games. Up front Head Coach Ryan Barrett will look to Logan Franz and Colton Sheen (top two scorers from last year’s team) to help lead the way once again. Defensively, five of six returning defensemen this year are into the second last year of junior hockey eligibility so expect the Canucks to be tough in this area. In goal, expect Colin Cooper to get the bulk of the starts as he plays in his final year of junior hockey. The question for the Canucks is how much can they improve from last year? The Canucks will start the season with a three game home stand (September 5th vs the Mustangs, September 6th vs Drumheller, September 11th vs Whitecourt).
Calgary Mustangs (26-28-6; 58 pts---lost in the first round to Drumheller)
The Calgary Mustangs had a disappointing end to their season last year losing in three straight games to the eventual South Division Champion Drumheller Dragons. Six players including the top three scorers from last year’s team graduated from junior hockey. F Riley McDougall and F Connor Collett were tied for the team lead with 61 points with F Jamie King (55 pts) third. Also moving on from last year’s team is Captain D Jared Van Ree (13 pts), D Brandon Halls (12 pts), and D Carson McCormick (17 pts). The Mustangs acquired a trio of players during the summer. F Sean Davies (15 pts) was acquired from the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters, F Mason Mitchell (19 pts) was acquired from the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, and D Chandler Irvin (28 pts) was acquired from the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. The Mustangs could return 17 players from last year’s team which means Head Coach Derek Stuart didn`t have a lot of holes to fill. Coach Stuart stated “We have some guys here challenging veterans for their spot on the team”. In goal Ravi Dattani will be expected to get a majority of the starts. Up front returning players Colby Chartier and Josh Betinol are hoping to mix in well with acquisitions Mason Mitchell and Sean Davies to help lead the way offensively. On the back end coach Stuart hopes the addition of Chandler Irvin and Sean Davies (who can play forward and defense) will help lead a younger defensive core. With the South Division too close to call, the question for the Mustangs will be can they bring the success they’ve had at home out on the road with them? The Mustangs will open up the season with a two game road trip (September 5th vs Canucks, September 12th vs Drumheller) before returning home on September 13th to take on Camrose.
Camrose Kodiaks (29-21-10; 68 pts---lost in the first round to Canmore)
For the second time in three years the Camrose Kodiaks post-season came to an end in the first round of the playoffs. The Kodiaks were one of the busiest teams this summer. Five players graduated from junior hockey including last year’s top two scorers F Luc Vandale (47 pts) and F Connor Mailey (46 pts). Also moving on from junior hockey were: F Ryan Huolt (20 pts), D Matt Waseylenko (9 pts), and F Tanner Tyndall (8 pts). F Tanner MacMaster (40 pts) is moving on the NCAA this season. Camrose acquired three players this past summer, G Keelan Williams (8-3-1; 2 shutouts; 2.39 GAA; 0.904 save %) from the Okotoks Oilers. F Danton Davis (1 pt) was acquired from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. F Adam Wheeldon (11 pts) was acquired from the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. D Luc Lemier (23 pts) was traded to the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs. Head Coach Boris Rybalka potentially has 14 players returning to training camp is fall which would leave some holes to fill in his lineup. In between the pipes, expect a good battle in goal to see who will be the starter as the Kodiaks brought three veteran goalies to training camp. Up front, the Kodiaks will have several forwards to lead the way including top returning scorer from last season Nelson Gadoury. Stefan Danielson will help lead a more veteran defensive core this year for the Kodiaks. The question for the Kodiaks will be can they rebuild to push Okotoks, Brooks and Drummheller to regain supremacy or will they continue to posture for playoff positioning? Camrose will start the season with a three game road trip (September 5th vs Olds, September 12th vs Brooks, September 13th vs Mustangs) before returning home for a two game home stand (September 19th vs Mustangs and September 20th vs Canucks).
Canmore Eagles (32-25-3; 67 pts---lost in the second round to Drumheller)
The Canmore Eagles will look to improve on last year’s second round appearance and may have a great opportunity to do that as they are going to return four of their five top scorers from last year and both of their goaltenders. The Eagles will lose their leading scorer from last year’s team D Trey Phillips (65 pts). Also moving on from Junior Hockey are; F Luke Simpson (37 pts), F Bryan Arneson (28 pts), F Jeremy Margeson (26 pts), F Austen Hebert (12 pts), D John Stevens (11 pts), and F Nils Moser (9 pts). The Canmore Eagles will bring 17 players to training camp this season which doesn’t leave a lot of holes to fill for Head Coach Andrew Milne. Ryan Ferguson and Cam Barnes are expected to compete for the starting job in goal. Up front, Connor Wilson (top forward with 57 pts last year) will help lead a veteran offensive group. On the back end, Nikolas Kosman will help lead the defense this year. The question for the Eagles will be can a more veteran team continue to build on the success from last season? Canmore will open up the season with a two game home stand (September 12th vs Whitecourt, September 13th vs Olds).
Drumheller Dragons (35-20-5; 75 pts---lost in the Gas Drive Cup Finals to Spruce Grove)
The Dragons had their most successful season in their franchises history advancing to the Gas Drive Cup Finals. Like Canmore, the Dragons have a chance to repeat their success this season as they will return four of their top five scorers from last year’s team. F Colton Vannucci (63 pts) who led the team in scoring last year has graduated from junior hockey. Also moving on is F Dallas Smith (37 pts), F Trent Ouellette (36 pts), D Troy Gedny (9 pts), and D Matt Sanderson (6 pts). G Devin Buffalo (7-1-0; 2 shutouts; 2.03 GAA; 0.917 save %) will be heading to the NCAA this season. The Dragons also made a couple of trades this summer sending G Adam Beukeboom (5GP; 2.36 GAA; 0.917 save %) to the Grande Prairie Storm, in exchange for D Sasha Larocque (22 pts). Drumheller also acquired F Andrew Green (42 pts) from the NOJHL’s Abitibi Eskimos. With the potential of having 17 players return to camp meant that Head Coach Brian Curran didn’t have a lot of holes to fill. That may be a good thing as coach Curran stated “It’s been a rough summer for me. I spent a lot of time in the hospital but my scouts did a really good job; maybe too good a job because some of our kids are still in the Western Hockey League”. Drumheller will look to build off the success from a deep playoff run last year “It was a special team last year there is no question about it. We had great goaltending and chemistry and it is something we feel we still have on this hockey team” stated coach Curran. In goal, Curtis Skip is expected to get the bulk of the starts. Up front, the Dragons will be returning four of their top five scorers from last year including Mitchell Cook and Christopher Rauckman. On defense, the Dragons are returning most of their defensive core from last season including Joey Raats and Cody Fiala. The question for the Dragons will be can they continue what they started last year or was it just a one off? Drumheller will start the season on the road against the Canucks on September 6th before returning home for a three game home stand (September 12th vs Mustangs, September 16th vs Okotoks, September 19th vs Canucks).
Okotoks Oilers (36-19-5; 77 pts---lost in the first round to Olds)
It was a huge disappointment for the Okotoks Oilers last year as for the third time in franchise history their season came to an end at the hands of the Olds Grizzlys. It will be a huge change for the Oilers this year as they lose six of their top seven scorers from last year’s team. F John Edwardh (58 pts) is off to college, along with G Jared D’Amico (28-15-4; 3 shutouts; 2.47 GAA; 0.904 save %) who is off to the NCAA. The team also will lose seven players who have graduated from junior hockey including; F Connor Hartley (49 pts), Ty Clay (46 pts), F Derek Thorogood (44 pts), D Tariq Hammond (39 pts), F Robbie Fisher (35 pts), D Jordan Swenson (24 pts), and D Max Mowat (13 pts). The Oilers also made a couple of trades during the summer acquiring G Devon Fordyce (14-12-1; 1 shutout; 3.50 GAA; 0.895 save %) from the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers (via the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles) and F Stephen Doane (32 pts) from the Grande Prairie Storm. In turn, G Keelan Williams (8-3-1; 2 shutouts; 2.39 GAA; 0.904 save %) was sent to the Camrose Kodiaks. With the potential of having 15 players returning, Oilers Head Coach James Poole had some work to do bringing in new players “We got some quality kids here and obviously this year we are going to be a little bit younger. We lost a lot of players last year due to age and scholarships”. Last years early exit from the playoffs stung the Oilers “It’s tough. We thought in February we had a pretty good month and we’re starting to come together and had some unfortunate injuries going into playoffs but all in all we didn’t perform the way we needed to” stated coach Poole. Up front, Stephen Doan and Tanner Ockey will be looked upon to help lead the way offensively. On the back end Drew Weich and Josh Smith will be looked to help lead the way for a young defensive core. In goal Devon Fordyce is going to be expected to get the bulk of the starts as he replaces outgoing Jared D’Amico. The question for the Oilers will be if a younger team can continue to compete with a more veteran team in Brooks and Drumheller or will this be a rebuilding season that allows the Oilers to restock their cupboards and become powerhouse favorites in the South for years to come? Okotoks will start the season on the road September 6th at Olds before returning home for a two game home stand (September 12th vs Olds, September 13th vs Brooks).
Olds Grizzlys (21-30-9; 51 pts---lost in the second round to Brooks)
The Olds Grizzlys will look to improve on a seventh place finish last year. The Grizzlys are going to lose last years league co-leading scorer Spencer Dorowicz (75 pts). Also graduating from the team last year are D Matt Hanger (10 pts), D Taylor Bilyk (8 pts), F Tyler Kerner (3 pts), and G Ethan Jemieff (16-20-5; 1 shutout; 3.15 GAA; 0.903 save %). The Grizzlys also made a big splash in the trade department sending D Jordan Lajimodiere (14 pts) and D Marc Eremenko (4 pts) to the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings, in exchange the Grizzlys would received G Jordan Piccolino (27GP; 2.95 GAA; 0.918 save %). Piccolino played 5 games in the Western Canada Cup with the Kings last year. The Grizzlys will potentially be returning 18 players to training camp meaning Head Coach Brett Hopfe didn’t have a lot of holes to fill, but one of the key players that won’t be back this season is Spencer Dorowicz “Obviously (Spencer) Dorowicz was a key player and we have to look to some of our veterans to step up and fill that void which usually happens from year to year in junior hockey”. The Grizzlys will be getting back most of their top 10 scorers from last year’s team including Christopher Gerrie and Kyle Star who will be looked upon to help lead the way up front. On the back end, Nikolas Koberstein will look to lead a younger back end for the Grizzlys. While in goal the Grizzlys may have gotten the steal of the summer when they acquired Jordan Piccolino from Dauphin. Expect Piccolino to get a majority of the starts in goal. The question for the Olds will be can they find a way to compete with Brooks and Drumheller and make a move into the top four in the South Division or will they once again try and lure the top teams into a false sense of security and then take them out in the playoffs? The Grizzlys will start the season with a two game home stand (September 5th vs Camrose and September 6th vs Okotoks).
*Note rosters based on summer trades and team rosters as of August 30th.
Written by Chris Colwell