Kodiaks ready for bear
No sooner have the long hot days of summer finally arrived and it's already the start of hockey season.
The Aldergrove Junior B Hockey squad is hard back at practice this week on home ice with a line-up of many new faces along with a few familiar ones.
Kodiaks owner and general manager Rick Harkins is stoked for the coming season and pleased to bring back Tim Preston as head coach. He's also appointed Kodiaks alumni Jordan Pughe as the captain.
"Steve Howerton and I will be assistant coaches again, and this leaves me more time to do the promotional and organizational work, all the things that will bring fans into the stands," said Harkins.
The Abbotsford Pilots will host the Junior B provincial championships this year for the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which automatically gives Abby a spot on the tourney. Harkins says his goal is to have the Kodiaks earn a place in the tourney too.
"We open our season at home versus Delta Ice Hawks on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 7:15 p.m., and they will be the team to beat this season. They have almost all their players back from last year, several 20-year-olds, so they'll be very strong," says Harkins.
"And Abbotsford and Richmond (Sockeyes) are always strong."
A number of forwards are returning to the Kodiaks line-up, including Pughe, Thomas Hardy and Matt Luongo, and depending on how their prospects go at other clubs, Ryan Veillet, Colton Precourt, Tyson Solotki and Aaron Reimersma may also return to the fold.
Defender Ryan Prochysyn is definitely coming back and Matt Liggatt and Taylor Christopher are possible returnees.
Goalie Mark Menucci has signed as a Langley Rivermen affiliate but will be starting goalie for the Kodiaks this season. Other goalies being eyed for backup include Angus Redman, Josh Reyes and Brendan Sharpe.
Newcomers who have impressed Harkins are Scott Smith, 18, formerly with Burnaby Winter Club, who Harkins expects will "add some muscle to the team."
He's also acquired Brendan Gulka, 17, of Langley, and Cole Regier, an 18-year-old D-man who played the last two seasons with the Pilots. In addition, defender Robert Jang was acquired from Port Moody and forward Ryan Burnett in a trade with Maple Ridge.
Darcy Rai, a forward from the Surrey Midget Championship team, and forwards Thanvir Bandhesa, Scott Mackey and Josiah Friesen round out the Kodiaks line.
The season starts later this year than in previous years but the Kodiaks have started to gel in their exhibition matches.
On Sept. 3 they took a 7-4 loss to Port Moody Black Panthers, followed that on Sept. 8 with a 4-2 win over Mission Icebreakers, and now that ice is in at home they hosted the Panthers Sept. 14 at Aldergrove Arena for a 5-2 win.
Harkins says volunteer recruitment has been going well, and corporate sponsorships are also growing. The Aldergrove Star returns as a team sponsor, along with a host of local businesses, including Crompton Motors, Diamond Bar Equipment, Save-on Foods, A-1 Glass, Chic Nails, Home Hardware, Sun Rayz Tanning Salon, Dairy Queen, Rich Coleman, Subway, Panago Pizza, Don's Auto Body, Hamilton Farms, Langley Banquet Centre and Kodiak Trucking.
The popular Steve Muller returns as game announcer and Harkins says he's trying to get all game videos on the Internet.
"We'll be featuring between-periods games and entertainers-singers and hope to get the Aldergrove Minor Hockey teams playing mini-games," says Harkins.
"We're going to make Aldergrove Arena the place to be on Wednesday nights for a good evening's entertainment."
Regular admissions are $8 each, or $5 for seniors and youths. AMHA players aged 12 and under are admitted free of charge if accompanied by an adult.