The Beaver Valley Nitehawks wrapped up a successful camp in Okotoks two weeks ago and will hit the ice for its spring camp at the Beaver Valley Arena this weekend.
The Nitehawks will ice about 50 rookies, veterans, and alumni, as the coaching staff looks to assess its prospects and focus on up and coming local players.
“The Fruitvale camp we have a few kids coming from Alberta, and there’s a couple kids coming from Nelson that played at POE (Pursuit of Excellence) coming,” said Nitehawks GM Jamie Cominotto. “But mostly locals, and younger locals, just to give them the experience around camp.”
Some of the Nitehawks best (potentially) returning players are Greater Trail or Castlegar products including last year’s rookies Connor Seib, Christian Macasso, Morgan Peace, Tommy McConnachie and Aiden Jenner. Along with 18-year-old veterans Bradley Ross and Aidan Browell, 19, the Hawks boast a strong foundation from which to work, however, there is a good chance more than one of them will move on to Junior A.
“That’s the thing about being Jr. B, you never know until the Jr. A guys come back or if they come back.”
Beaver Valley has recruited some of its best players from Alberta of late, including last year’s top scorer Dylan Heppler, forwards Jaxen Gemmell and Damon Kramer, defencemen Dylan Kent and the Hawks’ playoff-leading scorer Kevan McBean, as well as promising rookie goalie Liam Coulter.
This year’s camp in Okotoks was even more promising.
“Out of the Alberta camps we’ve done in the past, it was probably the most successful as far as talent,” said Cominotto. “It was great and the players really worked hard. It was a great weekend all around.”
Unfortunately, many of those same players will not be returning to the Nitehawks this season. Heppler graduated from Junior hockey, and with a wealth of potential 20-year-olds returning and only able to carry five, the Hawks dealt Kramer to Campbell River last week and McBean (who plans to attend UVic) to the Victoria Cougars.
“We wouldn’t have traded him (McBean) for the world to anyone in our league. But it’s one thing we promised our 20 year olds, if there was somewhere that was more likely for them to play, we’d always try to do what was best for them, and we’ll continue to do that with the guys that are left.”
The Nitehawks will also be looking for goaltenders as Coulter, 18, will move on to university.
“We’re looking for two goalies,” said Cominotto. “Jake Kemp (Castlegar) stepped in for us last year as an AP and really played well, so he’s potentially one of the guys. We had eight goalies in Okotoks and there was a few of them that played really well so we’re just waiting to get through this weekend before we make any decisions on who we bring in for main camp.”
Like most Greater Trail residents, Cominotto also was excited about the signing of the new Smoke Eater coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. Developing players within the Greater Trail corridor has been a benefit to both teams given the Smokies recent success with former Nitehawks like Ross Armour, Spencer McLean, Jeremy Lucchini, Tyler Ghirardosi, and Blake Sidoni.
“We need to work together, and I think Craig (Clare) has known that all along, but just how do you make it work?” said Cominotto. “That was one focus of mine that when I took this job, I wanted Trail to feel like they could take any one of our players at any time, and we’d be able to fill that void in our line up.
“And to AP, for the kids to have that situation literally 10-15 minutes down the road, it gives them every opportunity to practice and play on a last minutes notice.”
The Nitehawks camp goes from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, and 8:30 to 11:15 a.m. and 5 to 7:45 p.m. on Saturday. It wraps up Sunday with all the veterans sitting out and only the young prospects scrimmaging from 8:30 to 11 a.m.