Welcome to the second edition of the KIJHL Notebook.
As most fans are probably aware, the second week of league action was shortened due to travel restriction by the Provincial Health Office as there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases. This has caused the KIJHL to pause play until Dec. 7 or until the PHO decides it is safe to resume play.
However, a few KIJHL teams still managed to get games in before the pause.
- The Castlegar Rebels have two wins in three games and are led by Jordan Adams offensively, who has five goals. Last season, as we mentioned in the debut of the Notebook, Adams scored two goals in 37 games. His single-season career high is six from the 2018-19 season.
Rebels coach-GM Carter Duffin is excited to see JJ (Jordan Adams) start to get rewarded for his work on his game. Duffins senses he will continue to roll with this momentum from the start he has had. The third-year Rebel has had a huge impact on the team, both on the ice being relied on in critical moments as well as in the room.
“He brings a positive high-energy attitude to our room every day and seeing the positive results flood in, is always exciting to see as a coach,” says Duffin.
He has been pleased with the start to their season.
“There are some areas of focus that we are beginning to see some of the successes that we are expecting, and we have also identified some opportunities for improvement,” says Duffin. “During the course of the pause we are going to take full advantage to continue developing both our individual skills and team tactics to keep us prepared and ready to continue when it is safe to do so.”
- Chase Heat sit atop the Doug Birks Division with five points. Second-year forward Jacob Biensch is off to a hot start with nine points in three games. Rookie goalie Kiev Kineshanko has seen all the crease time, earning two wins, to go with a 3.61 goals against average and .903 save percentage.
“We are getting real strong goaltending to keep us in games,” says Heat coach Brad Fox. “Kiev Kineshanko is in a zone right now.”
Fox says they are focused on determining where they are in terms of their strengths and weaknesses in the line up as well as tactical game.
“Our work habits and compete level within our group is at a high level right now,” he says. “Being only three games into our season, we continue to address our attention to detail within our tactics in team play. The primary adjustment will be to defend in our zone with more urgency to minimize the number and quality of shots we face.”
The Heat have also been benefitting with an offence by committee throughout the line up. As mentioned above, Biensch leads with nine points. Trevor Kennedy is close with six. Fourteen players, including Kineshanko, have collected at least one point.
- Columbia Valley Rockies improved to 3-0 to start the season following a 7-2 win over the Fernie Ghostriders. Along with getting offensive production (16 goals in three games), the Rockies are playing strong defence, allowing two goals a game. Rookie defenceman Dylan Malarchuk leads the team with three goals and six points.
“We have been happy with how our team has bought into our game plan, executing the key areas of our strengths that we identified before the regular season started,” says Rockies coach Briar McNaney. “We have done a very good job of capitalizing on the swings in momentum during the first three games. The other area of our game that stood out is how we are moving the puck efficiently as a five-man unit.”
- Creston Valley Thunder Cats are winless in their opening three games. When league play resumes, they will be looking to end that streak. Generating more offence will be key as they have scored five goals.
“Our team is not happy with how we have started so far, going by our record,” says Thunder Cats associate coach and assistant GM Mark Readman. “After reflecting and going over video and stats, we have identified our areas in need of improvement. With these two weeks we are fortunate to have practices and workouts, we can bounce back and keep building in the right direction.”
Readman added their second periods need to be stronger and they plan to use the pause to work on their systems. They believe they can sharpen up in every aspect of the game.
“With a roster full of first year junior players, we know the process of getting climatized with the league and junior hockey will take some time,” he says.
- Fernie Ghostriders lost 7-2 to the Rockies. They trailed 5-0 before local Nikolas Sombrowski, who returned from the SJHL’s Notre Dame Hounds, scored early in the third period.
“In two of our three games we’ve really liked our team’s dedication to the defensive side of the puck, taking care of our own end and working from our net out,” says Ghostriders coach-GM Jeff Wagner. “In all three games, our staff has been really encouraged by the character of our group – our effort and attitude has stayed consistent regardless if we’re winning or losing.
“So far what stands out is our inexperience and inconsistency,” he continues. “We’re a hard working, motivated group, however, sometimes our youthfulness takes over and we have experienced some growing pains in the early stages of the season.”
- Golden Rockets had their lone game scheduled last week with the Revelstoke Grizzlies postponed as the Town of Golden made a decision as they sought clarification around the recent Provincial Health Order. Rockets coach-GM Chuck Wight says his team has played good minutes in their two games.
“We need to put the full 60 minutes together in order to improve,” says Wight. “We will have a continued emphasis on discipline in all aspects of our game. From staying away from penalties and improving our positional play, we will also use the break to work on our skill development and working on the mental side of the game.”
- Grand Forks Border Bruins lost to the Nelson Leafs 10-1 to drop to 0-3. They have allowed 19 goals in total, which is the highest in the league.
“I don’t think that we have performed anywhere near what we were expecting to start our season,” says Border Bruins coach-GM John Clewlow. “We have had some spurts of good hockey, but we have lots of work to do.”
When the league resumes, Clewlow says their compete level has to rise.
“We’re not competing for 60 mins. We need to show up right when the puck drops,” he says.
- Kamloops Storm did not play last week. After two wins to start the season, the Storm are led by a trio of rookies in scoring: Branden Toye has four points; Lex Friesen has two goals and Zakery Johnson has two points.
- Kelowna Chiefs lost their lone game last week 4-1 loss to the Princeton Posse. They’ve played once already, Nov. 14 in Princeton, with the Chiefs winning 3-1.
“We have struggled at times, then others I’m satisfied given the number of rookies we’re carrying,” says Chiefs coach Ken Law. “Guys are starting to realize that you need to make decisions at a much quicker pace then they did last season.”
Law added that their cohort with Summerland and Princeton is very evenly matched and this will provide very good and exciting games.
“Hopefully we get to resume play and can finish off this very different season,” he says.
- Kimberley Dynamiters have a win in three games. The Dynamiters earned their first win, 7-1 over the Thunder Cats. It was Eric Scherger’s debut in goal after he was acquired from the Summerland Steam in the off-season. He turned aside 28 of 29 shots.
“Considering we had a three-week layoff between games and the team had just one practice before our first two games, I am very happy with our start,” says Dynamiters coach-GM Derek Stuart. “We still have a long way to go to catch up to other teams, however, with the current pause we are on, it will allow us to catch up and be where we want to be when we resume play Dec. 8.
“What I like most about this team so far is their willingness to work hard and compete,” continues Stuart. “We had a good chance to win both the games that we’ve lost despite playing without any systems, structure or chemistry due to the Covid stoppage we had to endure. If we continue to work as hard as we have and compete like we have, we will put ourselves in a position to have success every time we play.”
- Nelson Leafs are now 3-0 after defeating the Border Bruins 10-1. They lead the league in goals with 24. Nearly half of their goals have been scored by Matthew Byrne (five) and Hunter Floris (four).
Assistant coach-GM Adam DiBella says he likes their play.
“Our back check has been great, we’ve worked on improving our defensive zone,” he says. “We have seen great signs of early chemistry that we hope to see continue to grow as we move forward with the season.”
What has stood out to him is the leadership of the group.
“We have 10 players on our roster that could all wear letters,” he says. “All 24 of our players are already 100 per cent bought into our program.”
- North Okanagan Knights lost 7-3 to the Heat, dropping them to two losses and an overtime loss. One thing working in their favour is they are the fourth least penalized team.
- Osoyoos Coyotes battled the Rebels hard in their lone game last week, but lost 6-3. Levi Carter added another two goals, giving him five. Coyotes coach Carter Rigby says he has been happy with their play, including their last game. He didn’t like how they lost though.
“We’re a young, skilled group that didn’t come ready to play and with time and age, you learn in this league anybody can beat anybody no matter the night,” says Rigby. “It’s been a good teaching lesson for us and glad we get a break to regroup and get back to work to prepare.”
Rigby has been very happy with his goaltending and the younger core group. He feels he has four lines and six D-men that can play and be competitive every night.
“We’re disciplined between whistles and now it’s just learning how to play the right way night in and night out,” he says. “At this level sometimes you find teams have two lines, where we as a group feel we are deep and everyone can contribute every night. We don’t rely on one or two guys to push the pace. We will win by committee.”
- Princeton Posse has one win in three games. They earned their first win, 4-1 over the Chiefs on Nov. 20. Aiden Szautner, who was named the KIJHL’s first star, netted a hat-trick, including the game-winning goal in his first game. He was named the first star of the game.
“We have been happy with our group’s progress so far, but our guys know there is a lot of work to do,” says Posse coach-GM Mark McNaughton. “We can see that we have a smart group and they are guys who are willing to learn to play with one another. We are focusing right now on how to stay at the effort level needed to win games.”
McNaughton has also seen a maturity and hockey IQ in his players that is excellent. They are picking up the Posse philosophies quickly and are focused on their compete level and their work ethic ensures they are consistent.
- Revelstoke Grizzlies lone game in Golden was postponed. After two games, the Grizzlies have the fourth highest scoring offence in the league with 15 goals. Cash Sawchyn, named the KIJHL’s second star this week, leads the way with four goals. Josh Singh, Brendan Vulcano and Collin Kozijn are tied with two goals each. Singh is a defenceman, who is third in rookie scoring with five points. Kozijn played for the Beaumont Braves U18AA program last season and had 20 goals and 40 points in 31 games.
- Sicamous Eagles earned a split with their first loss coming to the Grizzlies, 8-3 on Nov. 17. Eagles coach Ty Gunn says he feels his team has played OK.
“We certainly have situations where we need to be sharper and we’re working hard to be better in those areas,” says Gunn. “Special teams stand out to me, especially the power play. A team has to execute when given those opportunities if they’re going to have success in our league.”
The Eagles are 1-for-10 on the power play.
- Summerland Steam sit atop of the Bill Ohlhausen division with four points and have a game in hand on the Chiefs, who they are tied with in points. Steam coach-GM Nick Deschenes says his expectations do not lie in the standings or on the scoreboard. It’s based on where they are playing based on potential.
“We’re a younger team, I had no expectations about winning, I just want to make these players the best players possible,” he says. “Right now it seems like we’re very competitive. I’m happy with that. Being competitive gives you a lot to work with.”
Prior to the pause, the Steam were buying into what Deschenes was asking of them. He’s also seen more impact from younger players than expected.
“Our leading goal scorer in the pre season was 16-year-old Tristan Weill. I love when young players can catch on quick. It pushes the older players to realize they have to elevate their game.”
Veteran Ethan Grover leads the Steam scoring race with five points.