The Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ training camp is in full swing at the Beaver Valley Arena this week and will cap off with a series of games against the Selkirk College Saints on the weekend.
About 50 skaters are vying for a spot on last year’s KIJHL championship team and with plenty of positions open, this year’s team will look a lot different.
“It’s really early, but it’s been a very competitive three or four days so far,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “The guys are playing pretty hard . . . I’m impressed with the young locals, and we’ve had a few players from out of town who have come in and performed well. I’m excited about the new season, we’ve got lots of work to do, but it’s tough to replace 15 guys.”
One unexpected bright spot is the return of Ryan Edwards, a key team leader and one of the Hawks most prolific scorers last season. They also expect the return of defencemen Arie Postmus and Nick Perez and with the recent acquisition of Walker Sidoni, the Hawks should be solid on defence, although short on veterans.
Jones is use to the two-year cycle that sees a winning team dissolve at the end of the season and a rebuilding year ensue.
“That’s what its about. We kind of knew when guys starting filtering back last year that we would have a chance to win and sometimes a two year cycle like that helps you win, but then you know for sure the guys are gone and then it’s a rebuild year . . . it’s a challenge,” added Jones.
Last year’s Nitehawk forwards Scott Davidson, Archie McKinnon, and Jake Lucchini have a legitimate shot with the Trail Smoke Eaters, while Craig Martin is in Vernon, and goalie Zack Perehudoff a shoe-in with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Yorkton Terriers.
Goaltending is a big question mark early, with last year’s stellar tandem of Perehudoff and Mike Vlanich moving on.
“We’re definitely looking for goaltending, unless someone decides to come up big in camp . . . we’re looking to either make a move or pick somebody up as the cuts start coming in from junior A,” said assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto.
It is still too soon to say just what the final Nitehawk roster will look like as players filter in from junior camps, but as the coaches acknowledge, the less players they see return, the more successful the program.
“The guys that are out there from our team last year, we don’t really want them back,” said Cominotto. “Because our whole purpose is to move them on to the next level, so if they come back then we didn’t do our job.”
Part of the team’s preparation this year is a miniseries with the Selkirk College Saints this weekend. Former Nitehawk Mason Spear will suit up with the Saints this season in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League.
“We’re really excited to have them coming in,” said Cominotto. “I know it’s going to be great competition for our guys and hopefully we can give them a little competition to get them ready for their season as well. I think if we can keep this up and develop a good relationship, it’s going to help their program as well as ours.”