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 Grand Forks Border Bruins in the Neil Murdoch Division. The Border Bruins head into the season with a new Head Coach-GM in Dave Hnatiuk, who was hired after news Dr. Mark Szynkaruk and his wife Tracy took over the community-owned organization.
Key Returnees: F – Mason Buzzell, Nick Moran (also played defence), D – Ben MacFarlane, G- Harrison Tutt.
Buzzell led the Border Bruins in offence last season with two goals and three points.
Rookies to Watch: F- Jackson Smith, Ray Warrack, Davis Hunter, Jameson Flint, Hunter Wood, Cody Quinney, Jonah Smith, D- Tyson Kistner, Brydon Bell, Leo Senger, Zak Thomas, Nickolie Horcoff, G- Justin Dueck, Ethan Shebansky.
Kistner – Moose Jaw Warriors U18 SMAAAHL – “He will add a physical presence and a big shot.”
Bell – PHA U17/18 Prep – “He joined us late from the La Ronge Ice Wolves and will be a key D-man for us. He is a good skater with offensive upside and skill.”
Senger – North West Stars U18AA – He joined us late from North Battleford Stars and is a steady stay-at-home D-man. He is great at containing the opposition and plays physical, is very reliable in all situations.”
Dueck – PHA U17/18 SAAHL – Dueck joined the Border Bruins from the WHL Kelowna Rockets camp. “Justin is extremely solid and will catch the attention of many Junior A teams this year.”
Shebansky – KC Colts U18 AA – “He recorded a shutout in his first pre-season game and has been fantastic in net from the first day of camp and like Dueck, should attract Junior A interest.”
The Border Bruins have also added local talent in Thomas and Jonah Smith.
“Thomas has fit right in and will be an exciting player to watch as every week he is gaining more confidence and has fit in nicely with our D-core,” says Hnatiuk, who added that Smith and Horkoff have become more comfortable as time goes.
Season outlook: “The coachability would be something big for me. We haven’t had to have a conversation about having to work harder yet. The effort is always there,” says Hnatiuk. “When you have a young team that is already doing that, it definitely is a positive attribute that the boys are bringing. They are eager, they are hungry, they are not complacent. I have a room full of rookies. I don’t think you’re a veteran if you played three games in a COVID-19 season last year.”
Coach’s quote: “Justin Dueck was my first guy I chased after. We’re not in a rush to make a decision on our goaltending. I have got three guys who are capable of being No.1 right now. It’s normal for me to have three in my roster,” says Hnatiuk, who comes from a college/university background, where it is common to have a trio of goalies. “The advantage is that you always have a backup if needed if a guy gets hurt or sick. You are still carrying two capable guys at all times. Having three capable guys, it’s kind of a neat situation.”