The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are already miles ahead of where they were at this time last year.
The Hawks commence training camp Aug. 25 with a number of veterans committed to returning to the line up.
“I think we’re probably a lot further ahead of the game than we’ve been the last few years,” said Nitehawk coach Terry Jones. “In that we’ve probably got 10 guys that have said they are coming back.”
The Nitehawks began last season with few veterans, 15 rookies on the roster, and a lot of question marks. However, their season turned into an unqualified success with the return of players like Zach Perehudoff, Dallas Calvin, Arie Postmus, Archie McKinnon, and Ryan Edwards, and the addition of veterans Danny Vlanich and Walker Sidoni.
The Hawks would likely have repeated as KIJHL champions last season if not for a Game 7 double-overtime loss to the Castlegar Rebels in the Neil Murdoch Division final. Jones says he expects the rivalry to pick right up where it left off, with Nelson and Castlegar being strong contenders for the division title again this year.
“Arguably we’ve been the three best teams for probably three or four years now and I don’t see that changing.”
The Hawks already have their full compliment of five 20-year-old players in McKinnon, Edwards, Vlanich, Keenan Patershuck, and Fraser Stang, but may have to replace impact players like Kurt Black, Riley Brandt, and Connor Brown-Maloski who are trying out with various Junior A teams.
The Nitehawks will also look to replace three of their top defenceman after Derek Lashuk, Nick Perez, and Postmus graduated from Junior hockey, and with the loss of Perehudoff and Jarrod Schamerhorn the biggest hole the Nitehawks will have to fill is in goal.
“We have some prospects coming in. We don’t have anybody committed to the spot but we have some good local players, some guys from out of town. We feel like we have some guys that can compete for the job.”
Yet, flush with so much experience and leadership, it may be early, but the future certainly looks bright for the B.V. Nitehawks.
“Sometimes when you have a year like last year when you’ve lost a lot of guys, you may approach it a little differently,” added Jones. “When I compare this year it reminds me of two years ago (when the Nitehawks were KIJHL champions) where we’ve got a veteran core who are tired of losing and they want to win.”
Following training camp, the Hawks embark on a seven game exhibition slate starting Aug. 30 against the Creston Valley Thundercats in Creston.
They’ll play in Nelson Sept. 1, before their first games at home on Sept. 4 and 6 versus Creston. The Hawks play in Castlegar against the Rebels Sept. 7, at home versus Nelson Sept. 8 and finish the exhibition schedule in Grand Forks Sept. 10.