Kodiaks count on new blood
Aldergrove Kodiaks hockey fans will get a taste of the Junior B team's prospects when they lace up against the Richmond Sockeyes this coming week.
The home exhibition game takes place at Aldergrove Community Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 7:15 p.m., followed by a trip to the Sockeyes' Minoru barn on Sept. 8. The Kodiaks' first home season game will be the following Wednesday, Sept. 12, against the Ridge Meadows Flames.
"This year's team will be young, fast and hopefully, productive," says Kodiaks GM Rick Harkins.
Many of last year's players aged out this year and several others are still away at camps with Junior A and higher clubs.
"We had five full teams show up at the prospects camp and we whittled that down to two teams for the main camp," said Harkins.
"We have about 30 young guys still skating with us and we'll trim that down to about 21, 22, next week."
Among last year's players who are definitely returning to the line-up are Ryan Veillet, Daniel Higgs, Josh Cronin and Ryan Procyshyn.
Matt Lloyd, Brendan Sharp, Stephen Ryan and Josiah Friesen may come back, depending on their performances at Junior A camps this coming week.
New players that Harkins is excited about include 16-year-old Cloverdale forward Jackson Waniek, a Kootenay Ice draft choice, and a pair of Burnaby boys, forward Matt Vela and defenceman Roshen Jaswal.
Aldergrove triple-A Midget defenceman Kodi Schwarz, 17, will represent the homegrown talent coming on board. Another Aldergrove forward, Jared Stuart, is expected to bring some toughness to the Kodiaks, provided his broken hand heals in time.
Forward Darcy Rai is also coming back to Aldergrove, in a trade with Kamloops.
The Koddiaks are also welcoming Ron Johnson back as head coach, and he will be charting the team this year the same way NHL clubs do.
"Ron is going for his PhD at the University of Wisconsin and the charting will use the Kodiaks as guinea pigs for his doctorate," says Harkins. "It's a lot of work and is something new for us but will help us develop the players at a higher level."
Assistant coaches will be Harkins, Tavis Eaton and Steve Howerton.
The PIJHL will be presenting the Harold Brittain Conference trophy to the Kodiaks prior to the home opener game start on Sept. 12. It will be the club's fifth season.
In related news, Langley Rivermen Hockey Club will have their last pre-season game this Sunday against the Wenatchee Wild at the Aldergrove Arena at 7 p.m. Admission is free.