Revelstoke Grizzlies look to be bigger and better this season

Revelstoke Grizzlies' new season starts with training camp this weekend.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies say farewell to their fans after being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season. The team's players will be mostly new when they start a new season next week.

When the Revelstoke Grizzlies got swept in the first round by the 100 Mile House Wranglers to finish their season, the series was closer than the 4-0 result. Three games were decided by one goal and two went to overtime.

There was one big difference between the teams — when the puck went into the corner, it was usually the bigger 100 Mile player that came away with it.

Getting bigger was a priority for Ryan Parent, the Grizzlies coach and general manager, in the off-season.

“I thought we had a good skilled team but I think size-wise we were a little under the margin for whatever the reason,” he said. “We had a lot of small forwards last year. This year we’ll be bigger.”

The Revelstoke Grizzlies start the 2016-17 season on Monday, Aug. 29, with an exhibition game on the road against the Golden Rockets. On Wednesday, Aug. 31, the two teams face off at the Forum.

The regular season begins on Saturday, Sept. 10, when the Grizzlies host the Osoyoos Coyotes at the Forum.

The Grizzlies held their main camp over the August long weekend in West Kelowna and will start training camp on the weekend.

Parent expects a lot of new faces in the lineup this year, with only about seven players returning from last year’s team — depending on who makes Junior A. Players that could be back are forwards Aaron Aragon and Ryan Pereverzoff, who were fourth and fifth in scoring on last year’s team; pesky forward Michael Boetker, local product Ullar Wiatzka, defencemen Michael Lenoury and Nicholas Higgs; and goalie Trevor Dilauro.

“In my opinion last year, we had too many returning guys. This year we’re going to have the right amount,” said Parent.

The remaining 15 or so spots in the lineup will be filled by rookies looking to make an impression in Junior B. Highlighting the new recruits are Broden, Dace and Kael Norman, triplets from Vancouver who are each 6’3” and weigh more than 200 pounds.

They exemplify the emphasis on size for this year’s team. “We’re expecting them to add to that size component we want to build on,” said Parent.

The triplets were the only new players Parent mentioned. As for the rest, he said the best will make themselves known during the season. “Who I highlight right now might not be who I highlight at the end of September,” he said.

Locally, the Grizzlies will be represented by Wiatzka, while Peter Grimm is a candidate for a spot in the lineup. Prospect Seth Bafaro might be on the team if he doesn’t make the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.

“We’d love to have him and I’d open the door, but I think he’s a good enough player to play in the western league,” said Parent.

The end result should be a team that’s older than the squad from two years ago, but not as experienced as last year’s team. Two years ago the team got better as the season went along, while last year the team failed to find it’s rhythm and was never able to get their record much above .500.

On the bench, Parent has once again dipped into his contacts in the Czech Republic to find an assistant coach. Jan Slansky will replace Rostislav Prihonsky at Parent’s side. Slansky played in lower-level pro leagues in his home country had coached at Notre Dame, a private school in Saskatchewan. He will be lead weekly skill clinics for Revelstoke Minor Hockey on top of his Grizzlies’ duties.

“I think not only from the perspective of hockey he’s going to be great. He’s got a good bead on the culture here and the language,” said Parent.

The KIJHL schedule changed this year, with teams playing only 47 games, all within their conference. Gone are the road trips to the East and West Kootenays, a move designed to ease the travel burden on teams and reduce costs. There are no instances of three games in three nights.

Once again, the Grizzlies play a good chunk of their home games after Christmas, with 15 of their last 19 games taking place at the Forum. The New Year’s Eve game, which was a big success last year, is back with Revelstoke hosting the Kelowna Chiefs on Dec. 31.

The Grizzlies are playing one home game in Nakusp, where they’ll take on the Princeton Posse on Saturday, October 1.

They are also playing an exhibition game against 100 Mile House in Lumby as part of that community’s victory in the Hockeyville competition.

“We should be a pretty big team, they’re a pretty big team and that is a small rink,” said Parent.