The Revelstoke Grizzlies are in the midst of their best start in seven seasons.
The Junior B hockey team is currently 9-2-0, which is also their second-best start in at least 13 seasons. They’re doing better than they were in 2009/10, when they went on to capture the Western Canadian Championship. The only time the team had a better start was in the 2010/11 season at 10-1-0, when they went on to compete in the Conference Finals.
“We have a pretty hungry group this year,” says coach Ryan Parent. “We’ve got a few guys that have kind of been through the wars with us. They’re hungry to win.”
Parent took over as head coach in 2014. That year, only three players returned to the roster from the previous season.
“We really did have a rebuild on our hands at that time,” says Parent. “I think the program has grown in a positive manner.”
One of the players that began when Parent did three seasons ago is Ullar Wiatzka. The 19-year-old defenceman is a Revelstoke native. This season, he’s one of the team’s assistant captains.
“We’re working hard,” he says. “Everyone is pretty committed to doing what it takes to win.”
The team is on the ice almost every day and supplements with gym and yoga workouts through the week.
“Year after year the players know what to expect,” says Parent. “They understand that it’s a demanding program.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to them and on them what we do.”
This year, there are 10 returning players and everyone is working towards the team goal of being better every day.
Strong leadership is helping the team keep pushing, says Parent. “They know what those tough times and adversity feel like and they feel it’s time to have some success.”
Leadership from players like team captain Tommy Bodtker. The forward from Kelowna, B.C., is in his third year with the Grizzlies and loves playing in Revelstoke.
“I think we’ve got a team that can definitely keep winning,” he says. “As long as we don’t don’t get ahead of ourselves and start thinking too far ahead, take it one game at a time, we should be good.”
Goalie Giovanni Sambrielaz noticed a drive in the team back at main camp in July.
“Even then you could kind of see a great group of guys,” he says, “not only on the ice, but off the ice.”
Sambrielaz is currently 8-0-0 this season and is ranked 10th in the KIJHL.
The Grizzlies have the lowest goals against – 26 – in the division. And while Parent says the team is balanced with both a solid offence and a strong defence, they are building off their defence.
“Our goaltending has been unbelievable so far,” says Grizzlies assistant captain Jordan Rea.
Rea has his sights set on the off-season.
“I think as a group we want to go as far as we can in the playoffs. The main goal every year for each team is to win it all,” he says. “I feel that we have the group to do it. We just have to keep putting in the work.”
With the team putting in the work every day, they are solidifying winning habits.
“Every practice everyone is pushing 100 per cent,” says Bodtker. “It makes it really fun to play hard for everyone when everyone is buying in.”
After playing eight away games, the Grizzlies are ready to be back at the Forum to play for the “best fans in the league,” says Sambrielaz.
They will work on improving their fourth-place KIJHL ranking and furthering their lead over the Okanagan/Schuswap Conference.
“Continue on the same path we’re on,” says Parent. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Grizzlies face the Sicamous Eagles in Revy on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and are back at the Forum on Oct. 21 to take on the Kamloops Storm at 7 p.m.