The Beaver Valley Nitehawks kicked off their Main Camp on Monday with about 40 players competing to crack the KIJHL’s top lineup.
“The excitement of building a team is such a great part of coaching,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “It’s a time where difficult decisions have to be made, but at the same time, you’re starting, not from scratch, but in a lot of ways you are.”
B.V. has a strong core of veteran players returning and a compelling crop of rookies. Led by Fruitvale native and five-year Nitehawk Sam Swanson, the Hawks will see potentially 13 veterans back, depending on Jr. A camps, and will need another 10 to round out the early roster of 23 carded players.
For Jones and company, filling those spots with the best talent isn’t necessarily a priority. Team chemistry often trumps talent, and getting both has been the key for the Nitehawks longtime coach and GM’s success, as the team celebrated its league-leading eighth KIJHL title in April.
“It’s funny how it goes, but when we talk about putting our team together we definitely ask our veteran guys, ‘Who are the guys that stand out to you as great character people?’ and that plays a part in making our team. You can’t ever underestimate what culture means.”
Former Major Midget Kootenay Ice players like Conner Seib, Christian Macasso, and Tommie McConnachie will likely be at the top of the rookie list heading into the week, and rounded out by Nitehawk veterans Nolan Percival, Aiden Browell, Damon Kramer, Bradley Ross, Dylan Heppler, Dylan Kent, Ryan Terpsma, Owen Sikkes, Evan Gorman, Jaxen Gemmell and Blake Sidoni – collectively, the Nitehawks should be a strong contender again this season.
“We look forward to seeing who rises, and who is able to make our squad,” said Jones. “I think we have a great group of kids coming in to tryout and then we’ll see what happens with some of our veteran guys who are at Jr. A camps as well.”
The Nitehawks won the KIJHL title, the Jr. B provincial championship Cyclone Taylor Cup, and came within a goal of winning the Keystone Cup (Western Canadians) last season.
This year’s Nitehawks team already looks potent up front, but may need to punch up the blue line, and add a capable goaltender to join returning netminder Owen Sikkes if they expect to repeat.
“We’re very comfortable with Owen. We feel he’s ready for the opportunity and we are looking to find number two … and we feel we have a couple guys coming into camp who are legit contenders to take that spot.”
For Jones and the rest of the Nitehawks staff, volunteers, and fans, the quest for another Cyclone Cup begins now.
“I think if you’re not thinking of winning then what are you doing?” Jones added. “But before we get to that point we have to get to the point where we’re a good team and we have a group of guys we know will work hard and work together and encourage each other to be better, and if we get to that point, anything is possible at any time.”
The Nitehawks Main Camp goes tonight at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena. On Wednesday, the camp moves to the Beaver Valley Arena with the Hawks playing the Grand Forks Border Bruins at 7:30 p.m. and the Nelson Leafs on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.