Five days after appointing Dave Lowry as the Western Hockey League club’s new head coach, Brandon Wheat Kings’ general manager Darren Ritchie has applied the finishing touches to the coaching staff for the 2019-20 season.
While Don MacGillivray and goaltending coach Tyler Plante will return for their fourth seasons with the WHL club, Ritchie has announced the addition of former Brandon captain Mark Derlago as the team’s second assistant coach.
MacGillivray, who has spent the past three seasons in Brandon, has a wealth of coaching experience, having served behind the bench in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with Portage, Neepawa, St. James and the Winnipeg Blues, the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders as well as three seasons at the helm with the University of Manitoba Bisons, where he was named CIS Coach of the Year in 2008.
Before joining the Wheat Kings in the fall of 2016, he spent seven seasons with the Blues, where he served as Head Coach and General Manager. In addition to leading Winnipeg to the 2014 MJHL Championship, his Terriers captured the 2005 Title.
“Don is really well prepared, hard working and well respected by our group,” says Ritchie. “He is a big reason why our defence took a real step forward during the second half of the 2018-19 season.”
“I’m excited to be back with this club and have the opportunity to work with an experienced coach like Dave (Lowry),” says MacGillivray, who was named the MJHL’s Coach of the Year in 1995, 2005, 2012 and 2013. “I am looking forward to the challenge of working with this group again.”
A former WHL Rookie of the Year, Plante played three seasons with the Wheat Kings, beginning in 2004.
A Brandon product, he is currently tied with Jordan Papirny for first place on the club’s All time list with twelve shutouts, including six during his first WHL season.
Selected in the second round by the Florida Panthers in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, who played nine years of professional hockey in Europe, the ECHL and the American Hockey League, he compiled an impressive 2.89 goals against average in 162 career games.
Derlago meanwhile joined the Wheat Kings in 2003 and spent four seasons in Brandon, including three years as a teammate of Plante.
In 229 career games, he scored 82 goals and 162 points. During his final WHL season in 2006-07, he helped Brandon to a 41-20-3-8 record and an Eastern Division pennant, finishing tenth in league scoring with 46 goals (1st in the WHL) and 81 points in 72 games.
Following his graduation from the WHL, Derlago played four seasons of professional hockey in North America with stops in Bakersfield, Texas, Providence and Manitoba in the American Hockey League as well as Bakersfield, Idaho and Idaho in the ECHL. Mark then went on to play eight seasons in both Europe and Asia.
Derlago retired this summer after spending the 2018-19 campaign with the Esbjerg Energy in Denmark.
“Tyler has a great relationship with our goalkeepers (Jiri Patera and Ethan Kruger) and that should benefit both of them this coming year,” says Ritchie, who added “Mark will be an excellent addition to our staff. He’s just retired from the game and should relate well with our players.”
“I am confident that the leadership that he showed as a player will translate well to our room,” he went on to say.
Now that the coaching staff has been finalized, Ritchie will now turn his attention on finding a new director of scouting – a position that he had held until he was promoted to the club’s top job earlier this month.
The Wheat Kings will open up training camp in late August, with their first pre-season test scheduled for Friday, September 6th against the visiting Winnipeg Ice