The Beaver Valley Nitehawks quest for a KIJHL title begins this weekend as the Hawks open their Spring Camp in Alberta on Friday.
The Nitehawks coaching staff heads to Okotoks this weekend for a three-day camp, then returns to the West Kootenay for their Spring Camp on May 4-6 at the Beaver Valley Arena in search of top prospects.
“Both of our camps are starting to fill up but Okotoks has been pretty good in terms of recruited players that Jamie (Comminotto) and Cory (Clark) have been scouting,” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “The response has been very strong and we’re looking forward to running a really good camp.”
The Nitehawks Head Scout, Cory Clark, has churned out a steady stream of solid prospects from wild-rose country, including his son Brett who backstopped the Nitehawks to the 2014 Keystone Cup. Alberta products like Tallon Kramer, McCoy Hauk, Ryan Terpsma and Tyler Hartman complimented the local mix of players and launched the Nitehawks to the KIJHL and Cyclone Taylor championships in 2017, proving talented and character additions to the Hawks fold.
The Nitehawks roster carried seven Alberta products last season including graduating players Dylan Heppler and Damon Kramer, two of the Hawks top defencemen, 19-year-olds Kevan McBean and Dylan Kent, forward Jaxen Gemmel and 18-year-old rookies Angus Amadio and goaltender Liam Coulter.
B.V. will have a hard time replacing the likes of Fruitvale native, team captain and five-year Nitehawk veteran Sam Swanson, as well as skilled leader Nolan Percival, and so the coaching staff has their work cut out for them as B.V. could have fewer than 10 players returning for the 2018-19 campaign.
“It’s pretty exciting, to be honest,” said Jones. “It’s been an up and down couple weeks here, so we’re looking forward to the start of the next season, really, and we have a lot of work to do to get back on top.”
McBean and Kent were the final cuts from Jr. A teams last season, and may take another run at the CJHL, while emerging talent like Bradley Ross, 17, Tommie McConnachie, 17, Aiden Jenner, 18, Connor Seib, 17, and Coulter will undoubtedly take their shot at moving up the ranks as well.
If both Sikkes and Coulter return, the Nitehawks goaltending will be one of the league’s best tandems, while defence also has high-end potential, depending on the 20-year-olds that return to the Nest.
The Nitehawks have 11 players turning 20 this season, including defencemen Jake Yuris, Karsten Jang, Erik Bocale, Evan Gorman, McBean and Kent, which poses a problem in a league that has a five ‘overage-player-limit’ per team.
“We have a problem with our 20 year olds,” said Jones. “We’ve had conversations with all of them and some of them are unsure of what they want to do, and some have expressed that they want to come back, so part of what we’re trying to do is, number 1: let the guys make the decision, so it’s easier for us, but if we have more than five guys that want to come back then we’ll have to deal with it.”
The Spring Camps also give the Hawks coaching staff an opportunity to identify future prospects and create relationships with younger players, introduce them to the Nitehawks culture, and establish contacts for the future.
“It all starts with finding the right chemistry for the guys. I think that’s what we always try to find, the guys that have the right attitude to want to get better and brings the right character to go through all the stuff we put them through.”
The Hawks go into every year with high expectations, so their early exit in the first round of the 2017-18 playoff to the Castlegar Rebels in Game 7 stung more than a little.
B.V.’s third-place finish in the Neil Murdoch Division and a 27-15-2-3 record would be respectable for any other team, but for the Nitehawks, after winning the division title the previous three years, the result was indicative of a very tough year, where the team suffered injury after injury and never fully recovered.
“We felt we had a very good team this year, but the one thing we just couldn’t account for was the continuous injuries that seemed to beset us every single day. I never felt that we got off to any kind of momentum as a result of starting our season shorthanded, and I take full responsibility for that.”
For more info or to register for the Spring Camps go to bvnitehawks.ca.