The Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ new recruits turned a lot of heads last weekend.
About 65 players age 14-20 from across B.C. and Alberta laced up the skates for three days of scrimmages at the Nitehawks Spring Camp at the B.V. Arena.
“I think this is one of the best camps we’ve ever had, definitely the best one of the local kids, 14 and 15 year olds, they don’t look out of place,” said Hawks General Manager Jamie Cominotto. “The pace has been high, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Cominotto was so impressed with the level of play from up-and-coming players he’s ready to invite all of them back to his main camp.
“I’d like to bring them all back,” said Cominotto. “Watching Jake Smith, the Smyth boys (Ethan and Joel), (Nathan) Domenici, Nathan Dann, all those guys, just did a great job, and they fit in with the group. I’m excited for the future, and having a local pool coming that is very capable of playing at this level.”
The Nitehawks coaching staff was out in full force with coach Terry Jones and assistants Bill Birks, Mike Morissette, Shane Drake, and Danny Vlanich evaluating the talent.
Beaver Valley expects a strong contingent of returning players, and committed to top Kootenay products Jarred Macasso, Dayton Nelson, and Zach Park, three players that were affiliate players for the team last year.
“What they did in the playoffs, and what they’ve done at camp here, they’re ready to step up and play at this level,” said Cominotto. “It’s always nice when you can add those local kids, who have been in the area. It’s something we’ve always done in the past and something we need to continue.”
Other promising young players included forward Marcus McEachern and defenceman Owen Salaki from Edmonton. Both played for the South Side Athletic Club (SSAC) Midget AAA last season, while 18-year-old forwards Brett Thompson of Beaumont and Ben Kruse from Wheatland also stood out.
Goaltending is always key to the Nitehawks success, and it is uncertain if either of last year’s tandem of Noah Decottignies and Saran Virdee will return to the Hawks Nest for another season. Cominotto believes that both have the ability to move up to the Junior A ranks, so he kept a close eye on the goaltending at camp.
The Hawks GM was impressed by Trail product Kevin Engman who played Trail Midget Rep last season and was an AP for the Nitehawks, as well as Okotoks AAA goalie Casey Thompson and SSAC puckstopper Riley O’Laney.
“The goaltending situation is always tougher because there’s only two of them, but they are quality goaltenders and our goalie coach Mike Morissette has been really impressed.”
The emphasis on the Nitehawks’ culture is something that separates the team from others in the KIJHL. Strong ties to former players and an appreciation for its alumni and supporters builds strong bonds that last for years.
A prime example was the presence of former players Kyle Hope, Mason Spear, Lyle Frank as well as Jaxen Gemmell and Ryan Terpsma, who travelled from Calgary, to be behind the respective benches.
“Having the ex-players was great,” said Cominotto. “It gives not only the players but their parents an idea of what we do here. It’s a family and these guys are still a part of it, and they still enjoy coming back and being a part of this.”
For the Nitehawks, building a team isn’t just about adding the best pieces, it’s about adding the right pieces, and that’s why the exit interviews often play a big part.
“We always talk about character here and having that one-on-one conversation with them is when you really learn about your players.”
The Nitehawks main camp goes in August.