The Beaver Valley Nitehawks play their first regular-season game tonight with a home-and-home against the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
The team just came off a tough exhibition week, playing five games in seven days but finished with a respectable record of three wins, one loss and one tie.
“We are excited on several counts,” said coach Terry Jones. “We’ve had some surprises with some guys returning, unexpected returns of defenseman Ryan Dixon, and forwards Chris Derochie and Keanan Patershuck.”
Derochie and Patershuck played for the Hawks last season accounting for 49 and 25 points respectively while Dixon began the season with the Hawks but was a mid-season call up to the Smoke Eaters after injuries depleted their blue line.
Joining Dixon to strengthen the Nitehawks own defence is 18-year-old Brandon Lijdsman and Josh Peters (20) from Alberta.
Notable rookies include Archie McKinnon who was a welcome surprise for the coaching staff. But while Jones is happy with recent results on the ice, he says the roster isn’t set until Jan. 10, the trade deadline.
“We are still looking to get better, we are still looking to continuously improve our roster any way we can and we want our players to improve any way they can.”
Another new face to the Nitehawks is assistant coach Kris Boyce. The ex-Nitehawk just graduated from a successful hockey career at Eastern Washington University where he was named All-American in his final season.
Being a leader (team captain) at the Junior ‘‘A” level and at Eastern Washington has helped Boyce make the transition from the ice to the bench.
“It’s going to be pretty good, we have a good team this year with the older guys coming back and the young guys, 16-year-olds, the team looks pretty strong so far.”
Boyce will run the forward lines while, assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto will take care of the back end.
“I think he’s going to be an asset in lots of ways but as a young guy he’ll bring that little bit of understanding of the players side of things and the players will be able to relate to him very well,” said Jones.
The Nitehawks first home game goes Saturday at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7 p.m.