Some people are calling the upcoming Revelstoke Grizzlies season a re-building one, but coach Kevin Kraus is hoping it doesn’t turn out that way.
“At the moment it looks like it but I don’t want it to be,” Kraus told the Times Review Monday morning. “We lost pretty much our top three lines from last year. We lost two big 20-year-old defencemen. It could have the rails of being a rebuilding year but I don’t want to say it is.
“I like to shoot for the stars and keep going for the top of the league. I want to be the best in our division and go from there.”
The Revelstoke Grizzlies open their season at home this Friday, Sept. 14, against the Chase Heat.
Kraus made the comments after the Grizzlies played their two exhibition games against the Sicamous Eagles. At home on Friday, the teams tied 3-3, while the Eagles won the second game in Sicamous 6-4. (Note: box scores were unavailable for both games, so no roster was available for Saturday’s game).
Kraus said the line-up was mostly set for opening night against the Chase Heat in Revelstoke on Friday, but he is looking to add one or two more forwards.
“I think we’re strong in goalies and the back end,” he said. “Up front we’re going to be a fast, physical, hard forechecking team. I don’t think we’re going to be as skilled as last year but I could change that and bring in some guys.”
There will be lots of new faces in the Grizzlies line-up this year, especially in the forward ranks.
In net, last year’s back-up Conrad MacMillan will be joined by Aaron Brandoli, who was acquired from the North Okanagan Knights last week for future consideration.
On defence, Braden Seyl, Tyler Bolduc and Darnel St. Pierre all played in Friday’s exhibition game. They were joined by rookies Chase Anchikoski, Aaron Benjaminsen and Draden Androsoff. There is also the possibility of veterans Adam Pulliam and Andrew Standish joining the team, should they not make the cut in Junior A.
“I have the possibility of having five returning d-men so we could be very strong on the back end,” said Kraus.
The return of the hard-hitting St. Pierre, who scored 24 points in 40 games as a rookie last year was a surprise. “He was probably the first guy I got back and I was quite shocked,” said Kraus. “He was one kid I was not planning on having come back.”
Up front, there are more question marks. TJ Christensen, Riley Creighton and Kent Hendrickson, who made up the fourth line last year, are all returning; as are Austin Donaldson and Tyler Reay. Beyond that, there are lots of new faces.
In Friday’s game, the Grizzlies most dangerous line was that of Donaldson, Dallas Flockhart and Jordan Holloway. They generated chances almost every time they were on the ice and Holloway score twice. Kraus said they are currently pencilled in as the top line, “Until someone changes my mind.”
Reay, the team’s lone 20-year-old, centred the second line between big-man Tao Camisso and small-but-skilled Bungo Mizusaki.
Locals Chevy Hantula, Brodie Buhler and Eric Austin comprised the third unit. Hantula and Buhler, both 16, made the team while Austin was cut and will be looking to land on a team elsewhere in the KIJHL. “From what I understand he’s going to try to stay in the league somewhere else for now,” said Kraus.
Cody Hendrickson, the third local rookie, skated on the fourth line with Creighton and Keegan Mitchell.
Of the local rookies, Kraus said they would be energy players for the team. All three of them are first year guys and I expect them to work hard, come to play every night, bring lots of energy and be physical.”