One thing noticeable about the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 2021-22 season early on is that rookies are making an impact. This KIJHL Notebook will dig into the rookies on each team and how they are helping their respective clubs.
Eddie Mountain Division
In Columbia Valley, Bret Gerrits has six points in nine games for the Rockies. Gerrits earned his first KIJHL point, an assist on Oct.2 against the Castlegar Rebels.That started a four-game point streak for the six-foot, 175-pound forward. His first KIJHL goals came on Oct. 8 and 9. Gerrits is third on the Rockies in points.
Denon Bamber is third on the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in scoring with seven points in eight games. Bamber has four points, all assists, in his last two games and his first KIJHL points was an assist on Oct. 8 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. His first KIJHL goal game the next day against Castlegar. Bambers says he’s doing pretty good.
“I think I’ve got my confidence back, and I’ve been playing with two phenomenal hockey players and I’m finding a way to play my role,” says Bamber, who joined the Thunder Cats after being released from Kimberley. “I think we’ve had a good start. Keep continuing that and I’m just happy we’re winning.”
Bamber has been adjusting to the speed of the league, seeing that he needs to make quick plays. There is also the physicality factor, which he has liked, and the strategic dynamic of the game. To be effective, Bamber plays a two-way game and enjoys contributing offensively, but he’s driven to do what is needed for team success.
Forward Joey Haden has four points in seven games for the Kimberley Dynamiters. He collected two assists in their opening game and scored his first career KIJHL goal on Oct.22 against Golden, and added an assist.
Will Vernon sits second in scoring for the Golden Rockets with four goals and six points in seven games. His first career point was an assist on Oct. 5 against Columbia Valley. His first goal, in a two-goal night, came Oct. 9 against Fernie. Two of his goals have come on the power-play.
McCoy Bidewell has all four of the Fernie Ghostriders’ victories. He has one shutout and has turned aside 238 of 252 shots for a .944 save percentage with a 2.27 goals against.
“I play a composed structure and give my team a chance to win every night and that is what I strive for,” says Bidewell, 19. “I compete on every puck, I feel confident in the net and I think I’ve definitely had some solid games so far. I’m a pretty laid back goalie, I don’t get too up or down on myself. I just focus on what I need to do to get better.”
Bidewell came to the Ghostriders with Junior A experience, having been part of the Notre Dame Hounds program.
“It has forced me to compete and do my best night in and night out,” says Bidewell, adding that experience made an impact on how he carries himself around the rink as he wants to be a leader in the room. “I definitely play an aggressive style. I like to be calm and controlled. That is a big part of my game is settling it down and making my team feel comfortable in front of me.”
Neil Murdoch Division
Joel Smyth of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks is third in team scoring with 12 points in eight games, trailing rookie teammates Hayden Stocks and Judah Makway. The Trail product scored his first KIJHL goal, shorthanded, on opening night against Nelson. It was the start of a seven-game point-streak that was snapped on Oct. 23.
“I feel like it’s going well right now,” says Smyth. “The start of the season I feel like it’s surprising how good I am. I think our team is doing very well and I’m going on the right track to improve my game. I’m proud of myself for how good I’m doing. It shows all the hard work I’ve been putting in. I’m in the right spot and working hard every shift, it really helps and shows on the scoresheet.”
Dylan Marshall has two of the Nelson Leafs’ three wins. He earned a win on his first start on Oct. 2 against Fernie. His second win came Oct. 22 against Castlegar and Marshall has a .893 save percentage with a 2.75 goals against average as he’s stopped 92 of 103 shots.
“It has been pretty decent. Probably not up to my own expectations,” says Marshall of his play. “I’m a butterfly goalie and I like to play the puck most of the time and I’m pretty good at controlling rebounds. My focus is my main part – mentality. It’s really good.”
In the games he’s won, Marshall says he has been pretty calm, giving him the feeling he had a solid performance.
“The team in front of me has been really good. My preparation and mental side of the game is where all of it comes together,” he says.
Ethan Aebly sits seventh in Castlegar Rebels scoring with three points in seven games. The defenceman collected his first point, an assist on Oct. 8 against Grand Forks. He scored his first KIJHL goal on the weekend against Nelson.
Ray Warrack has two goals and four points for the Grand Forks Border Bruins, which ties him for the team lead with Nick Morin, who had three KIJHL games prior to this season. Warrack has points in four of the five games he’s played, collecting his first career point against Beaver Valley, an assist on Oct. 2.
Doug Birks Division
Cody Creasy has won both his starts for the Kamloops Storm. The 18-year-old has turned aside 50 of 51 shots and earned his first career shutout against Sicamous on Oct. 24 – a 32-save performance.
“I was on a little bit of a weaker team the past few years, not really the guy to be getting that many shutouts recently, but getting that shutout was awesome,” says Creasy. “I wanted to battle through that game. I had a bunch of shots in the second period. Eventually, I just wanted to get that and my family was at the game from (Brandon) Manitoba so it was really cool to see them in the stands for that game.
“I thought I’ve been playing really well this season, I’ve had struggles in the past with injury and stuff,” he continued. “And getting into it, the guys on my team are really good. They were helping me out in front of the net, but overall, I feel it’s been really good.”
Jack Osmond has three of the four Chase Heat wins. Osmond opened his KIJHL career with two wins. He’s turned aside 141 of 154 shots for a .916 save percentage and 2.57 goals against average.
“I’ve been playing fairly well,” says Osmond. “There have been a couple tough losses, but I think if I just keep at what I’m doing, our team will find success as a group.”
Osmond says it has been easy adjusting to the league and credits the coaches for putting them in a position in terms of billets and team atmosphere.
“It’s a pretty easy transition. The hockey itself, I feel fairly confident in playing,” he says. “I’m more of an athletic build-type. I just use that to my advantage to be aggressive and use my athleticism to respond and react to different situations.”
Defenceman Brandon Gallo leads the Revelstoke Grizzlies with four goals and five points. His goal total ranks him ninth in the league. Gallo opened his KIJHL career with a two-goal performance against Kamloops, in which he scored the winning goal.
Nathan Bohmer leads the 100 Mile House Wranglers with four points. Three of Bohmer’s points came in the first game of the season on Oct. 8 against Princeton.
Hayden Fast leads the Sicamous Eagles with three points in six games. Fast netted his first KIJHL goal on Oct. 2 against North Okanagan. Defenceman Kingsley Brockett, who played two games last season, has a goal and three points in four games.
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Kenneth Marquart of the Osoyoos Coyotes has started his season winning his first four starts. He’s stopped 97 of 106 shots faced and has a .915 save percentage with a 2.25 goals against average. After allowing three goals in each of his first two starts, he’s allowed three combined in his last two.
“It’s been pretty good. It has been an adjustment from midget for sure, but I have handled myself pretty well,” says Marquart, 16, who has adjusted to the speed. “I like the quality of the shots and I found that my tracking has had to improve and has improved just from the speed of the games.”
James Hooton of the Kelowna Chiefs is 10th among rookies with seven points in nine games. Hootoon opened his KIJHL career with a three-point night against Princeton on Oct. 1. Among his four goals is a game-winner against Princeton on Oct. 2.
Grayson Chell has 10 points in seven games for the Summerland Steam. That ranks him fifth in the league among rookies. On Wednesday, Chell enjoyed a four-point performance that included a hat-trick in a 6-4 win over the Princeton Posse. Chell now has five goals.
Tyler Burke has four points in six games for the North Okanagan Knights. Burke potted his first KIJHL goal in his first game on Oct. 2 against Sicamous. Burke recently collected two assists against Kelowna.
Jaden Fodchuk of the Princeton Posse sits fifth in league scoring with eight goals and 13 points in 10 games, which leads his team.
“Right now I think I’m playing well. I’m sticking to my game and using my speed more and my skill and it has been benefiting me throughout the games,” says Fodchuk, who is on a four-game points streak, which includes netting four against Osoyoos on Oct. 23.
“I feel good about it (his eight goals). Goals are the best,” says the five-foot-10, 165-pound forward. “You get that happy feeling and it helps the team. That’s what I was trying to do at the beginning of the season, score a goal a game.”
It hasn’t been a big adjustment to the KIJHL for Fodchuk, who is adapting to playing against bigger and more aggressive players.
“I have to take that into account to embrace that in my game more.”