Expectations are high as the Comox Valley Glacier Kings prepare to open their 2015-16 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season this weekend.
How high? As high as the championship banner they plan on raising to the Sports Centre rafters at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Following an afternoon practice prior to the team’s Saturday, Sept. 5 home opener against the Nanaimo Buccaneers (7:30 p.m. Sports Centre Arena #1), head coach Joey Ewing did not hesitate when asked what the Yetis goal is for this year.
“We’re gonna win a title. I don’t think we’re setting ourselves any shorter than winning. This is the first year I’ve said that, and I really, truly believe that we have the team here to win the title. Anything else would be disappointing.”
Going into his third year behind the bench, Ewing says, “It’s the youngest team I’ve ever had and the most talented at the same time. I’m pretty excited about everything.
“I know it’s gonna be a bit of a learning curve for the young kids, but once we figure it out I think we’ll have the strongest team I’ve ever had here,” Ewing said.
“It’s pretty much the first time we’ve started the season with good defence, good forwards and good goaltending all at the same time. Usually, especially in Junior B, you have to look through the year to find your pieces. We kind of have our pieces from the start.”
Several of those pieces are homegrown talent – Kyle Franceschini, Tyson Slater, Ty Graham, Justin Mirabelli, Curtis Card, Dayton Keith and Kyle Wade.
“It’s exciting for the fans to have a local presence here,” Ewing said, adding Card and Wade are returning players.
Another returnee is three-year veteran Grant Iles, who Ewing said will be a huge presence as team captain.
New acquisitions include 19-year-old Paul Broadbent from the Michigan Nationals U18 program, whose imposing height will literally make him a huge presence as the starting goalie.
“A couple of new guys are gonna be exciting to watch,” Ewing said. “Cyrus Valk (nephew of former Vancouver Canuck Gary Valk) and then Ryan Stoynich from Alberta.
“Another big one to look for is Tyson Slater on the D end and Dayton Keith. Both local kids. They’re going to go somewhere in hockey.”
The team’s only 20-year-old is D-man Thor Rosback from Port McNeill.
Ewing says fans can look forward to an exciting version of the 2015-16 Icemen. “Our front is very highly skilled – a high- flying, puck-moving offence. At the back end you’re gonna see some pretty skilled young kids and some pretty mean, big, tough defencemen. That’s how we’re gonna try and play it all the time. We wanna be tough to play against in our defensive zone all the time.”
“We want to be more aggressive in our own zone,” added head scout Bill Brett.
“We have a better D-core than we ever had,” said Ewing of a team that has a reputation for developing outstanding blueliners.
The latest success story there is Derian Hamilton, who captained the Yetis last season and in the summer secured a first-year full ride scholarship to NCAA Div. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions.
“He is the first NCAA Div. 1 player ever to be signed out of the VIJHL. It’s a very nice feather in the Glacier Kings’ cap,” Ewing said.
“I chose Penn State because I have always been impressed with Penn State’s academic and athletic reputation,” Hamilton states on the team’s webpage.
Nittany Lions’ coach Guy Gadowsky is equally impressed with Hamilton. “Derian is a great skating defenceman. He is able to break pucks out on his own because of his skating ability. He is a smart player who moves the puck well and is able to create a lot of offence.”
The Glacier Kings are entering their 23rd season in the VIJHL, and note the goal of their program is player development while also icing a competitive hockey club.
“The coaching staff will do its utmost to develop and move players to the next level, be it BCHL, WHL, or even university programs,” the team states on their website.
And they deliver on that statement.
Along with Hamilton (2013-15), other alumni attending university include Nicholas Tupper (2012-14) Concordia, Nicholas Govig (2013-14) Framingham (Div. 3), Colton St. John (2014-15) Eastern Washington, Michael Hales (2012-14) Lindinwood (ACHA), Scott Legault (2013-14) UVic, and Will Finley (2013-14) UVic.
Dallas Maxwell (2013-14) now plays pro puck in the Denmark Elite league.
Nine Glacier Kings have gone on to play Junior A, including Eric Margo (2013-14) Alberni Bulldogs, Brenden Smith – Powell River Kings, Taylor Derynck (2013-14) Alberni Bulldogs, Sheldon Brett (2012-15) Trail Smoke Eaters, Mitchell Hawes (2014-15) Powell River Kings, Liam Shaw (2013-15) Melville Millionaires, Keegan Selva (2014-15) Kindersley Klippers, Lucas Robinson (2014-15) Cochrane Crunch, and Ludvig Adamson (2014-15) Surrey Eagles.
Along with working hard on the ice, the Glacier Kings work hard to give back to the community and fans that support them.
Team governor and co-owner Marsha Webb notes the team was recently at Island Home Furniture (their major sponsor) to help raise money for the SPCA.
“This month the boys will be helping Rotary set up for Ribfest (Sept. 18-20) and then they will help with the teardown.
“In October the team will be wearing pink jerseys for warmup and then we will be auctioning them at the end of the month, with all money going to breast cancer research. We will also be selling T-shirts for this initiative,” Webb said.
“In November (Movember) the team will be wearing blue jerseys and again we will auction them, with the money going to support prostate cancer and men’s health,” Webb added.
The Glacier Kings play out of the 1,400-seat Arena #1 at the Comox Valley Sports Centre where they won the 1993-1994 VIJHL league season championship. In 1994-1995 the G-Kings won the VIJHL playoffs and went on to compete for the Cyclone Taylor Cup (provincial crown). In 2009-2010 they were the VIJHL North Division playoff champions.
Their bid to add another banner to the Sports Centre’s rafters begins in earnest this Saturday.