Revelstoke Grizzlies aiming for the top this season

Revelstoke Grizzlies coach Ryan Parent expects team to compete for league title this season after narrowly missing the playoffs last year.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies bid farewell to their fans at the end of last season. The team is back on the ice preparing for the 2015-15 season this week.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies bid farewell to their fans at the end of last season. The team is back on the ice preparing for the 2015-15 season this week.

Ryan Parent has high hopes for the Revelstoke Grizzlies this year. After missing the playoffs as the result of a tie breaker last year, he wants the team to contend for the league championship.

“We want to have a chance to win it all. Certainly be in the top six teams in the league,” he said. “Out of a 20 team league, I think that’s attainable.”

Parent is about to start his second season as the Grizzlies bench boss. His first season was a growing experience for the team. He took over managerial duties with the Grizzlies last summer and cleaned house, only returning one player from the previous year.

With a young but skilled lineup, the team started off slow and was inconsistent for the first half of the season. They turned it on after Christmas, finishing with 55 points in 52 games and only missing the playoffs because Sicamous had more wins.

“My expectation is we come out of the gate pretty strong this year,” said the team’s coach and general manager. “I want to have a successful team right off the bat, not half way through.”

The Grizzlies look to start where they left off this Sunday, Aug. 30, when they host the Kamloops Storm in the first exhibition game of the 2015-16 season.

For Parent, the off-season began in March, when 85 hopefuls came out to spring camp in Armstrong. That number was whittled down to 45 for the main camp in Kelowna at the end of July. At training camp, which began on the weekend, that number was cut in half again.

As is the case in Junior B, exhibition season is a time of flux, as coaches wait for players to get sent down by teams in higher leagues. Parent expects up to a dozen players to return from last year’s team but added that no one is guaranteed to make the team — not even the returnees from last year.

“I don’t know whether you put in the work over the summer or not,” he said. “I have an idea on paper what I think we should look like. There’s always that 20-30 per cent margin of error that I make. I let the players dictate where they’re going to fall into the program.”

Three Grizzlies have committed to Junior A teams. Nii Noi Tetteh will be playing for the Trail Smoke Eaters, Carter Huber for the Okotoks Oilers and Tyler Chavez-Leech for the Drayton Valley Thunder. Many others are trying out for Junior A teams, including last year’s leading scorer Steven Fiust, who’s aiming for a spot with Cowichan Valley.

“I think Josh Pilon should have a pretty good shot in Salmon Arm, Mike Lenko should have a good shot in Langley,” said Parent. “We have guys at various camps that have opportunities to make the team.”

Parent didn’t reveal too many names for who he expects to be on the roster, but he did note that local boy Louie Federico had a strong main camp. “I have some big expectations for him,” he said.

“Some of our players should be dominant in the KI this year,” he added. “They’ve had a year to groom their game, get some confidence and now it’s time to fire it up. If they’re going to move on, they’ve got to be good.”

There have been changes off the ice as well. Kyle Simkins was hired as the team’s marketing manager in the spring and EZ Rock’s Shaun Aquiline will be running the game days. Karen Powers from Conversations will be handling the concession stand.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies open the exhibition season on Sunday when they host the Kamloops Storm. On Monday, the Grizzlies are in Armstrong to face the Knights. Entry to Sunday’s game is free with a donation to the food bank. Otherwise tickets are $5.

The team plays kicks off the regular season on Friday, Sept. 11, when they take on the Eagles in Sicamous. The home opener isn’t until September 26 when the Kimberley Dynamiters come to town.