October 4, 2012, LANGLEY, British Columbia – After a 4-15-5 regular season last year that saw the Trinity Western men’s hockey team miss the BCIHL playoffs, the Spartans enter the 2012-13 season looking to turn things around in a hurry.
And for the Spartans, it all starts this weekend with their home-opener Friday against Eastern Washington at 7 p.m. followed by Saturday’s matinee against Thompson Rivers at 1 p.m. Both games will be at the Langley Events Centre and will be streamed live at www.langleyeventscentre.com.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS
2011-2012 BCIHL Record: 4-15-5, 6th
2011-2012 BCIHL Playoffs: N/A
Last BCIHL title: N/1
Key additions: Tyler Miller (D), Jake Harcoff (D), Blair Murphy (D), Jamie Russell (F), Mattias Schmitt (F), Jamey Kreller (F), Harry Fredeman (G)
Key returnees: Brad Bakken (D), Trevor Beaupre (F), Matt Chaput (F), Josh Stephenson (F), Nathan Wiebe (F), Tim Zwiers (G)
Key departures: Brandon Long (F), Chris Stew (D), Scott Holmes (D)
After finishing fourth in the league playoffs for five straight years, from 2007 to 2012, and then last year missing the post-season altogether, the Spartans have been mired in a funk of mediocrity for the better part of their BCIHL existence.
But this year, coach Dwayne Lowdermilk and his new-look group plans to change that.
With eight new players added to this year’s roster, and many of them with upper-level junior hockey experience, the Spartans have a fresh look that could well catapult Trinity Western not only back into the post-season, but also put it amongst the league-leaders.
With a core group of returning players, including captain Brad Bakken (Langley) along with long-time veteran forwards Trevor Beaupre (New Westminster, B.C.), Matt Chaput (Seaforth, Ont.), Josh Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.) and Nathan Wiebe (Nakusp, B.C.) and goalie Tim Zwiers (Williams Lake, B.C.), the Spartans have a solid foundation in which to build upon.
Add to that the bevy of talent that has joined the team at key positions and there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into the 2012-13 season.
Led by the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Tyler Miller (Langley), who captained the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs last year and, prior to that, played with the then Langley Chiefs for the better part of two years, expect Lowdermilk’s defensive recruiting class to make an immediate impact this year. Along with Miller on the back end are new recruits Jake Harcoff (Surrey, B.C.) and Blair Murphy (Surrey), who both have backgrounds that should allow them to make a seamless transition to the BCIHL.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Harcoff comes to the Spartans after last year playing at Arizona State, which was preceded by Junior “A” stints in B.C., Manitoba and the Maritimes, while the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Murphy joins Trinity Western following time spent playing American Tier III Junior “A” hockey in Montana.
Up front, the new blood includes the likes of Jamie Russell (Surrey), Mattias Schmitt (Surrey) and Jamey Kreller (Winfield, B.C.).
Of that trio, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Russell joins Trinity Western with the most impressive resume having played for the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Junior “A” Hockey League for the past two years. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Schmitt comes to the Spartans after a four-year Junior “B” career, which saw him spend his last three years with the Mission Icebreakers of the PJHL (Pacific Junior Hockey League) while Kreller, who is 6-foot, 190-pounds, also saw time in B.C.’s Junior “B” circuit as he most recently played with the Sicamous Eagles of the KIJHL (Kootenay International Junior Hockey League).
In net, the Spartans biggest recruit this year was Harry Fredeman (Ladner, B.C.), who came from the North Delta Devils of the PJHL after a strong Junior “B” career. Expect the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Fredeman, who will start this Friday, to push Zwiers for the starting job.
While there is plenty of buzz about the fresh faces making their Spartans debuts this weekend, this team will largely go as its foot soldiers go. As good as the top end talent is, the Spartans are a team that will need everyone contributing every night to be successful. Like in previous years, the Spartans will play a simple, hard-working style that is the trademark of any Lowdermilk-coached team.
And that style will only be effective if players like Chris Hirano – who scored likely the Spartans nicest goal of the preseason in their game against Simon Fraser – Tristano Falbo, Sam Gemmell, Doug Gordon, Brodie Hemrich and Jordan Magnuson play the roles they are expected. And although the season has yet to begin, Lowdermilk is convinced those players and the rest of his team are more than capable of living up to and, in many cases, exceeding expectations.
EASTERN WASHINGTON EAGLES
2011-2012 BCIHL Record: 7-12-5, 5th
2011-2012 BCIHL Playoffs: 2-1, 2
The Eagles enter their second season in the BCIHL ready to build upon an impressive inaugural campaign.
With many of their key players returning, including their top six scorers from last year, five defencemen and both of their goalies, Eastern Washington may be the team with the fewest changes in the entire league.
And fortunately for the Eagles, a lack of change is a good thing.
Starting in the crease, EWU will be a formidable presence. With Cash Ulrich, who last year was amongst the league-leaders in both goals against average and save percentage, and Jason Greenwell back, the Eagles are set between the pipes.
On the blueline, returnees include AJ King, Kjell Sherman, James Pfeifer, JR Straight and Zach Klemmer. With those five back in the mix, there is plenty of experience in which to draw from and with a year of BCIHL action now under their belts, the Eagles blueline will only be improving.
Up front, with so many forwards returning, the Eagles are in great shape. Led by Bret Kellog, who topped the team scoring race last year with 11 goals and 15 assists in 24 games, the Eagles have an array of offensive talent that will cause teams fits. After Kellog, the likes of AJ Sanders, Jake Flynn, Ryan Pajimola, Elliot Martin and Taylor Mort are all back to help push the Eagles into the upper echelon of the BCIHL.
Add to all that, a strong recruiting class, headlined by Spokane Braves (KIJHL) teammates Uriah Machuga, who had stints in both the WHL with Kamloops and BCHL with Trail, and Nick Redding, and the Eagles look to be a team on the rise in their second year in the BCIHL.
THOMPSON RIVERS WOLFPACK
2011-2012 BCIHL Record: 12-8-4, 3rd
2011-2012 BCIHL Playoffs: 2-1, 2
Thompson Rivers had a solid season last year, finishing third in the league with a 12-8-4 record in the regular season, but head coach Don Schulz is hoping for more this year as his team will no doubt be gunning for the top.
With a new season comes a lot of changes for the team, including a new playing style and a new captain. In fact, there are 14 new recruits in the WolfPack lineup including one goalie (Adrien Hervillard), four defensemen (Scott Bollefer, Ben Bula, Blake Boynes, Jordan Urban) and nine forwards (Rigby Burgart, Colten Defrias, Anthony Delong, Jake Howardson, Tyler Jackson, Kevin Lourens, Jarrett Martin, Alessio Tomassetti and Brennan Wright).
The fresh blood brings with it skill, speed and size.
The WolfPack is expecting big things from their forwards recruits, who have brought improved speed and agility to the squad. After seeing the team heavily reliant on production from the now-departed Jassi Sangha, David Gore and Andrew Fisher a year ago, Schulz is looking forward to having nine offensively-inclined players who he can rely upon this year.
And with TRU’s top five scorers from last year no longer around and only two defenceman, Curtis Tonello and Cody Rose, back, the WolfPack will need its recruits to step up immediately.
Fortunately for the WolfPack, the one area it can rely upon veteran help is in goal. Last year’s tandem of Riley Wall and Shane Mainprize is back and will keep TRU in games early on as this newly formed team finds its form.
This will be the program’s fourth year in the BCIHL. The WolfPack hopes to improve on last year’s finish in the BCIHL tournament where they fell short of making it out of the quarterfinals.