The Columbia Valley Rockies recently traded in the warm summer air for the frigid temperatures inside the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena, kick-starting the 2016-17 season with their opening training camp.
Training camp opened officially on Friday, August 25th, with some 44 players making their way onto the ice, head coach Wade Dubielewicz said. The group practised and performed in multiple intersquad games throughout the weekend before Dubielewicz and his staff were forced to cut some of the players down for their short exhibition season.
The Rockies hosted the Fernie Ghostriders on Tuesday (August 30th) evening at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena, defeating them 3-2 in overtime before playing them the next night and losing by a final score of 6-2. Dubielewicz said he was impressed with the team’s play throughout both games, which will make his job in the player selection process all the more difficult going forward.
He said that one of the positive, yet surprising, takeaways from Main Camp for himself and the rest of the coaching staff was the turnout of local players trying out for the team.
“There are still some younger kids fighting to play here, which is a great thing and it’s nice to see the minor hockey system here in Invermere paying dividends for us as a program,” he said, pointing out that he expects between four and five local players to be added to this year’s final roster.
“We as a group haven’t decided if they will make this team yet, but they are fighting right there tooth and nail to do it and it’s a huge positive, for not only us, but our community and our minor hockey system,” Dubielewicz said.
Among the new recruits the team is heavily invested in, he said, is 18-year-old Chase Hawkins from Edmonton, Alberta. Dubielewicz said he expects big things from Hawkins this season, describing him as, “extremely skilled, and extremely competitive and (can) put the puck behind any goalie.”
Dubielewicz said outside of the new players fighting for roster spots, he expect several returning players to make a significant impact on this year’s incarnation of Rockies. Players like Will Reynish and Colby Sherlock will take the leadership heading forward, looking to build upon strong 2015-16 campaigns that saw them take on larger roles within the Rockies system.
Dubielewicz said he expects goaltender Connor Mckay to take another step forward into cementing himself as the number one goaltender for the Rockies after spending last season bouncing back-and-forth as a starter and a backup.
Following the Rockies final exhibition game on Saturday against the Golden Rockets, Dubielewicz and his staff selected the team’s final roster (results unavailable due to The Echo’s long weekend press deadline) ahead of their regular season opening game on Friday, September 9th at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena versus Creston. See next week’s Echo for coverage of the opening game.