The Beaver Valley Nitehawks wrapped up their opening training camp Tuesday evening with a spirited Blue vs White scrimmage game.
About 40 skaters laced them up at the Beaver Valley Arena, as Nitehawks coaching staff prepare for the upcoming season; a task that is proving more difficult this year.
“The thing with these Junior ‘A’ camps they go to Junior ‘B’ to get players and we can’t touch them,” said Nitehawk coach Jeremy Cominotto.
With the start of the BCJHL season delayed until the end of September, it means the Junior ‘B’ Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) starts two weeks earlier this year.
“I wouldn’t want to wait until the end of the month to start playing – I’d rather get going sooner than later,” said Nitehawks defenseman Josh Peters between shifts.
It also means Nitehawks coaches Cominotto and Terry Jones are unsure what their team will look like until the final cuts are made from the Junior ‘A’ teams.
If a team like the Trail Smoke Eaters keep 22 guys on their roster, then the Nitehawks are looking to pick up the 23rd and 24th player cuts, says Cominotto.
Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen until the end of September or even early October.
As a result, the Nitehawks might only sign about 15 players to start the season in hopes of picking up late cuts as well as keep a few 17-year-old Midget skaters as affiliate players to round out the roster.
Still, players showed up at camp ready to compete and the coaches couldn’t help but be impressed by the level of play.
“There were a couple guys we got in here just for the sake of boosting our numbers . . . I thought they were guys that would have stuck around just because of their age, but they’ve played well and they deserve to be here.”
The camp also gave the coaching staff an opportunity to take a look at younger players especially the 16 year olds and future Hawks. Standouts include Craig Martin, Jarret Conway, Scott Davidson, D. J. Wallis, and Jake Luccini.
“These guys are ready to make the jump into the league but it’s the two 16-year-old rule that’s killing us.”
Junior ‘B’ teams are restricted to carry only two 16-year-old and four 20-year-old players. If the team could keep four or five of the younger players, the team would be set, says Cominotto, a reflection of how well local minor hockey programs and coaches are developing players.
The Nitehawks start the season with a home-and-home on Sept. 16 in Grand Forks and the 17th at the Beaver Valley arena. It’s not a lot of time to prepare, but Cominotto is confident that the team will compete on the ice.
“Every time we step on the ice we are going to work hard and we’re going to give every team a run for their money . . . This year we’re going to rely on local talent, like we do every year.”
The team has a pre-season tournament against the Nelson Maple Leafs and Grand Forks Border Bruins this weekend, followed by exhibition games starting Sept. 7 at home against Creston at 7 p.m