Despite coming off a season with only a handful of wins, players and coaches of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings are excited about the 2019/20 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season.
Most of last year’s rookie-laden squad is returning.
“Looking at last year, we had 16, 17 rookies on the team,” Yetis head coach Jordan Kamprath said. “This year, we have 17 or 18 veterans on the team. That one year makes a big difference.”
By season’s end last year, Kamprath said the attitude of players had vastly improved over the previous year, despite posting the same record.
“We battled right to the end of the season. We wanted to win games,” he said. “A couple players, I think, are going to stand out this year and step up with that extra year of experience under their belt. I think a couple of players are going to surprise the league with the skill and ability they’re going to have.”
By January of last season, the only non-rookies were Damian Rennie, Jordan Neufeld, Ben Alexander, Noah Goyer and Cianan Briscoe, who has since been traded to Saanich. Rennie, who was captain, led the team in scoring.
“Damian did everything that we asked him to last year. He stepped up and became that leader after our captain (Finn Withey) left and went up to junior A. I fully expect him to have another great season.”
Kamprath is also excited about the growth of second-year forward Tanner Roberts of Port Alice, who could have a breakout season. Fellow North Islander Benton Browne, a defender who grew up with Roberts, is another prospect.
As he trims the roster, Kamprath will be determining this year’s captaincy.
“Starting the season, I have removed all letters from the leadership core. I want them to earn their stripes again.”
A couple of potential team members are attending junior A camps. If they don’t crack the squad, they will return to junior B.
“Some kids, they don’t want to necessarily go up to junior A, they might just be focussed on college. Once they hit 19 or 20, the window of opportunity drastically shrinks. My goal is to keep players playing for as long as possible, whether that be junior A, whether that be college. I want them to continue to love and play hockey.”
Kamprath expects six rookie goalies to attend the team’s main camp this weekend. Joben Douce and Matthias Smith, who shared goaltending duties last season, have both moved on. Smith is playing with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and Douce has moved to Calgary. Their departure opens the door to Joshua Irving, Tyler Murray and Kody Shepherd, who tended net for the midget Silvertips last year in Nanaimo.
Kamprath will again be assisted behind the bench by defensive end/goalie co-ordinator Brad Smith, defensive coach Tyler Stitt and forward coach Brady Townsend. New this year is Colin Parsons, a power play and penalty kill specialist.
The Yetis host exhibition games Sunday, Sept. 1 against the Mission City Outlaws of the Pacific Junior Hockey League, and Wednesday Sept. 4 against the Kerry Park Islanders. The regular season starts Friday, Sept. 6 in Campbell River.