The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 2021-22 season begins Oct. 1. Leading into the season we are providing previews on each of the teams.
Next up are the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the Eddie Mountain Division. Last season the Thunder Cats were winless in their three KIJHL games prior to the cancellation. Bill Rotheisler returns as Head Coach-GM of the Thunder Cats.
Key Returnees: F- Vin Jackson, Corbin Cockerill, Hassan Himour, Reece Nelson, Liam Hennessy, D- Clayton Brown, Blake Hiltermann. The Thunder Cats have 17 returnees.
Eric Van Loon led the Thunder Cats in goals with two last season, while Nelson and Brown each had two points.
Rookies to Watch: D-Ethan Boutcher, Ben Narowski, F-Adam Redding, Denon Bamber, Nikolai Morrison, G- Evan Leggett.
Boutcher – Grande Prairie Storm U18 AAA – “As he physically matures, his game will transition exceptionally well to the junior level. His natural hockey IQ and skillset make him a very unique player and at the top of our recruiting hit list last season.”
Narowski – Calgary NW Flames U18 AAA – “He’s a smart player who makes good exit plays, he is also a physical presence and all-around first-class player.”
Redding – West Coast Renegades USPHL U18 Prep – “Adam carries himself and plays like a pro. Redding is skilled and understands and maximizes the skills he has and is very coachable. Adam came recommended by many much higher level coaches and scouts as a potential target. He plays a simple and smart game.”
Bamber – Grande Prairie Storm U18 AAA – “Denon was somebody we have liked for a long time. He is a good two-way player, is extremely coachable, and fits our systems and culture exceptionally well.”
Morrison – SSAC U18 AA – “Nikolai was one of our big surprises in camp and is a reminder of why we have a camp season. A relative unknown, he quickly won the group over with his willingness to really be the ultimate team player. He is skilled and works exceptionally hard, and is versatile, and can fill pretty much any hole in the line-up. He can make plays at a high pace.”
Leggett – Thompson Blazers U16 AAA – “Leggett has an incredible amount of potential. His technical game is refined more than almost any goaltender his age, 16. As he continues to develop under (Goaltender Coach) Matthew Armitage and veterans Laser-Hume and Carlos Siso, we feel Leggett has the potential to be a top-end goaltender.”
Season outlook: The Thunder Cats are already dealing with adversity with five defencemen injured, most long-term, as well as some forwards.
“What stands out is their ability to stay driven through everything,” says Rotheisler. “We will have to work hard to score goals, but we have a full lineup of players that can play and outlast other clubs. It takes mental strength to be able to play a game like this, which we believe our guys are more than capable of doing.”
Coach’s quote: Rotheisler likes that his group is close and has bought in. “It really is a special group that takes their game seriously, works hard, and is all very emotionally invested. This is a product of many architects with former coaches influencing many aspects of this roster, as well as other current coaches and players. I think that depth – defence, and goaltending are areas that can separate us.”
Campbell McLean –Yorkton Terriers (SJHL)
Evan Gartner – Cranbrook Bucks (BCHL)
Josh Dalquist – Okanagan Lakers (BCIHL)
Jaden Little – Okanagan Lakers (BCIHL)