KIJHL: Local teams look ahead to season

Hockey camps are starting up for the upcoming hockey season.

The Castlegar Rebels are getting a jump start on their rivals in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League play this season.

The Rebels are hitting the ice at the Castlegar Complex Aug. 17-19, to avoid colliding with Junior A camps.

“We’re hoping to get a good look at some local talent,” Rebels’ head coach Steve Junker told the Castlegar News. “We’re also looking at bringing some other talent in to make a stab at our squad for the upcoming season.”

Meanwhile rival Beaver Valley Nitehawks won’t skate until Aug. 27, hoping to have a good idea by then who will be available for the upcoming year.

“We’ll go pretty much full bore from there,” said Nitehawks’ coach and GM Terry Jones.

Rather than a rookie camp followed by a main camp, the Nitehawks, last year’s KIJHL champions, will have all players on the ice at the same time.

“We want to try to get everybody back. We want to see our veterans leading our younger guys,” said Jones.

Divergent philosophies from two teams that were the cream of the crop in the KIJHL last year. The Rebels lost to the Nitehawks in a thrilling seven-game series that decided the Neil Murdoch Division champion.

“It’s also a little benefit for the players before they head off for their Junior A camps,” said Junker. “Not only do we get to have a look at them, but they get a little shot in the arm before they head off and make their case at a Junior A camp.”

It is too early for either Jones or Junker to say who will be returning to the lineup and who will be moving on, but almost certainly the Nitehawks will be without captain Chris Derochie who committed to Okanagan College, leading scorer Craig Martin who is off to the Vernon Vipers, Ryan Dickson is gone to Edmonton, and Mike Vlanich to SAIT. Other players like goalie Zach Perehudoff, and forwards Dallas Calvin and Ryan Edwards will undoubtedly try their luck at Junior A camps and likely won’t return.

Despite the early camp, the Rebels won’t have a good idea of what the roster will look like until pre-season rolls around in September.

“There’s always some late changes, the trickle down effect, waiting on Junior A rosters to be done. But we like to have it done for the most part before school opens up so we can get guys settled in and put in billet homes if they’re from out of town.”

With an early Mar. 7 start to the BCHL season this year, the Trail Smoke Eaters and many BCHL teams will host their camps earlier directly following the Rebels camps and preceding the Hawks.

The Smoke Eaters will have a rookie camp Aug. 22-23 while their main camp will run Aug. 24-26.

“From a Castlegar Rebels’ fan perspective we’d love to get our guys back, but we realize that we’re hoping they take the next step and play Junior A,” Junker said. “But we’re not going to know that for a while.”

Despite not knowing who’s coming back, both the Nitehawks and the Rebels should once again contend for top spot.

“I think we’ll be a strong team again. I have no doubt in that,” he added.

“You can talk to anyone and there’s three or four guys that can swing your club and determine whether you’re an upper-echelon team or just in the mix.

“But I have no doubt we’ll be there in the mix. It’s a matter of whether we can find those few guys that can push us over the top.”

With files from the Castlegar News.