The third installment of our Camp Talk series focuses on the Eddie Mountain division, which Golden Rockets coach Jeremy Blumes feels is the best in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“Each of those divisional games is gonna be a battle,” says Blumes. “I think the divisional games are going to be huge this year. I think it’s going to come down to the last game of the regular season.”
Kimberley Dynamiters-The Eddie Mountain Regular Season champs (43 wins, 88 points) and Kootenay Conference champions hit the ice for training camp Aug. 30 to Sept.1. Coach Derek Stuart says with so many returning veterans (13, the most in coach Stuart’s four years), he hopes they will deliver a message during camp so the coaches don’t have to.
“If we do then, it will just be to make sure we are working as hard as we can,” says Stuart. “Working smart and not being afraid to make mistakes.”
The Dynamiters lost captain Chase Gedny, who announced his retirement during the summer due to knee problems. Stuart will look to Brock Palmer, Cam Russell, Harrison Risdon, Lukas Chilton and others for leadership.
There is an expectation for success since the organization has been in the KIJHL final four of the last five years, winning it twice.
“The teams that have carried over have done a great job of carrying that expectation and that culture through onto the next year,” says Stuart.
The Dynamiters will chase a deep playoff run with a local rookie on their blueline in Cam Reid. Reid, 17, played two games as an affiliate, collecting an assist. Stuart says he is excellent with the puck.
“We should benefit a lot from him on the power play, in offensive situations,” says Stuart. “Even breaking out of our zone. He played with us last year a few times and broke the puck out himself, simply by skating it. We’re very excited with his puck skills and his skating ability.”
The Dynamiters have recruited other rookies that bring a physical side, skate well and work hard.
Fernie Ghostriders– Coach/GM Jeff Wagner and his staff let the players in last weekend’s training camp know they want to be fast, play physical and creating offence. The message resulted in a high pace of play.
“We got a good core group coming back, who are comfortable with leading this group,” says Wagner, whose team won 26 games and earned 60 points. “We have some really good young recruits that we ended up bringing in during the offseason that kind of rounds us out. The other young guys that will be competing for the final spots on our team, we’re really excited to see where they take things.”
Veterans guiding the Ghostriders are Johnny Elias, Jordan Kromm, Owen Titus, Dylan Defosse as well as blueliners Greg Susinski, Derek Green, Kyle Klein. A smaller number as they will be a younger team. Definitely key contributors from our team last year.
Rookies fans should watch come from Calgary, such as forward Seamus Keith, a dynamic skater, who is physical and has a knack for the net. Defenceman Aaron Hladiuk, a smooth skater, who gets physical when he wants to and needs to and makes a good first pass. Ethan Fitzgerald is a goalie that looks really good in camp. Made the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors from camp last season. Didn’t stick the season with them, but he looked good at the Ghostriders camp.
“We expect pretty big things from him,” says Wagner, who will fill the other goaltending spot with options they have over the next few weeks.
Columbia Valley Rockies– The work coach/GM Wade Dubielewicz has done this off-season will allow the team to set a culture wanted “with no hangover from any previous seasons.”
“We’re really excited about that aspect at the start of camp (Aug.24-26),” says Dubielewicz, whose team won 22 games and collected 50 points last season.
The Rockies don’t anticipate having many returning players so Dubielewicz recruited what he feels is a well-rounded roster.
“It’s about setting expectations and setting goals and establishing on ice habits from day one,” says Dubielewicz, who played in 43 NHL games, winning 18 with the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets over six seasons. “Establishing your culture, just to allow it to perform the way you want and then honestly establishing those on-ice habits. Beginning steps of it is work ethic and competitiveness. We have that opportunity right now to reset that within our organization.”
One returning player the Rockies may have is Mason Robinson, 17. The Lumby native provides leadership qualities. They will also get leadership from Khale Skinner, acquired from the Red Deer Vipers of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, where he had four goals, 17 points in 16 games. He collected two assists in 10 games with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Fans should keep their eyes on Jace Paarup, who netted 14 goals and collected 27 points in 34 games with the Red Deer Chiefs. Dubielewicz believes Paarup could be called up to the junior A ranks this season. Caileb Berge is another. Berge racked up 38 goals and 65 points in 33 games with the West Central Tigers in the South Central Alberta Hockey League.
Golden Rockets– Three rules guide current and future Golden Rockets during training camp: the first is the team comes first, second is to get better every day and the final is to have fun.
“If we pay attention to those three principles, everything else falls into place,” says Blumes, whose team won 22 games and collected 48 points last season.
The Rockets veteran leadership group is led by Ryan Taylor, Colton Huthinson, Jayden Hendricks and Alex Johnson. Taylor, 20, is a physical, stay-at-home defenceman, while Hutchinson, who has junior A opportunities, plays a strong 200-foot game. Hendricks is a big physical winger that fits the Rockets mold and “a guy that is hard to play against” and possesses a scorers touch (15 goals in 37 games). Johnson, attending the Trail Smoke Eaters camp, is very creative and always on the right side of the puck.
The Rockets have three rookies to watch. Dylan Ford, who is trying out for the Humboldt Broncos, was a half-a-point a game defenceman with the Vancouver North East Giants. Dante Pietrarca is a speedy, hard-nosed, two-way forward and recently signed Liam Morris, plays a solid 200-foot game and is physical.
“He fits the Rockets mold,” says Blumes.
Creston Valley Thunder Cats-Coach/GM Nick Redding will tell his players during camp to “come out and work hard and be the best version of the player they are.”
The Thunder Cats missed the playoffs last season with 10 wins and 24 points. Redding says they will look to all their veterans to guide the team, but they will have a younger squad.
“We will have a young team, so we have a lot of rookies to watch this year,” says Redding. “The fans will see a skilled, fast, hungry team.”