The Major Midget Kootenay Ice held their main camp at the Cominco Arena on the weekend, with some new help behind the bench and in the front office.
Garrett Ferguson takes over the Ice’s GM position for Terry Jones, while returning head coach Kris Boyce welcomes two new assistants to the bench. Former Beaver Valley Nitehawks Kyle Hope and Mason Spear were named the Ice assistant coaches and will join Dyne Parker and Joey Underwood for outgoing assistants Paul Mailey and Tyler Hlookoff.
Ferguson has been the play-by-play announcer for the team the past two years, and was assistant to Jones last season. Ferguson, a Montrose native, is looking forward to the upcoming season as the Ice’s GM but wasn’t about to sacrifice his old position for the new one.
“We have a young coaching staff that’s all around the same age,” said Ferguson. “It’s all coming together slowly but surely, and I’m still going to do the play-by-play, so that’s the funnest part.”
On the ice, the Kootenay team saw about 40 players attend camp for three competitive scrimmages, practices and off-ice workouts. Many players from last year’s Ice team will move up to Jr. B and even the four slated to return, Jaxson Waterstreet, Jesse Ihas, Mason McLeod, and Caleb Concalves, will attend the Nitehawks camp that started Monday.
“It’s a good thing and a bad thing about developing them enough so they can go to Junior B because there are so many teams in the league, B.V., Nelson, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Creston, all so close, even Kimberley, Fernie,” said Ferguson. “The kids grow up there, and it’s the bright lights and the kids are attracted to it … In the end, it’s our goal to develop them, so we like to see it, but it kind of hamstrings us a little bit.”
The Ice have benefited from the BC Hockey Prospects camp that goes in July, where players that don’t crack the lineup of other teams, can attend the Prospects camp in hopes of getting selected by teams in need of players like the Ice.
“With BC Hockey doing the Prospects Camp we are able to pick up a player say from the Mainland that wasn’t quite good enough there but could be good for ours. Se we’ve seen a lot more competitiveness throughout the league because of it, and we’ve definitely benefited from it.”
The Ice committed Mason McLeod and Caleb Concalves at the camp last year, and picked up Whitehorse forward Josh Austin (cousin of former Ice d-man Matthew Cooper) and Abbotsford defenceman Dawson Reinfjell from this year’s camp.
Meanwhile, the Ice’s selection camp also saw a number of young Kootenay products suit up, including highly touted Greater Trail products Austin McKenzie, Josh Mason, Mitchell Daines, Michel Hjelkrem, Tristan Meakes, Jared Macasso, and Isaac Knight, Nelson’s Noah Quinn, Reid Vulcano and Kaleb Percival, Castlegar’s Adam Volansky, and Cranbrook forward Dayton Nelson.
With the Ice part of the High Performance Hockey program at J. L. Crowe, players need to be enrolled following the long weekend, even if they’re not sure where they are going.
The Nitehawks will likely give a long, close look at a number of the Ice players including the returnees. Following the Hawks camp on Wednesday, the team will play six intense pre-season games against the Nelson Leafs, Castlegar Rebels, and Creston Thunder Cats with the games going from Aug. 30 to Sept. 6.
But as Nitehawks coach Terry Jones has said in the past, players that won’t be on the top lines, will likely be returned to the Ice to benefit from more ice time against same-age players in a highly competitive Major Midget league.
Kootenay Ice will make their final selections after an exhibition tournament in Kelowna from Sept. 7-9.
“That will be after a week of Nitehawks Jr. B camp, so we can get in touch with the coaches and figure out who’s going where.”
Despite the difficulties in forming the team, Ferguson’s ultimate goal is to move up the standings and make the playoffs as the Ice did in 2017, but missed by four points last season.
“Our goal is to be back there (in the playoffs). There might be a bit of growing pains with the team that we do have, how a bit younger they are, but some kids that are playing the best are the 15 and 16 year olds, so it’ll be exciting.”
The Kootenay Ice’s first home game goes on Sept. 22 at the Cominco Arena against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.