Excitement, trepidation, joy, anxiety are a few words that describe junior hockey players, staff, family and fans when the 2019-20 KIJHL regular season kicked off in Chase this past week.
A brief reminder from last season, one of the youngest teams in the league, 12 rookies made it to the end of the season, 12 students at Chase Secondary and 14 wins and 21 one goal games lost. A short season including missing the playoffs, however reason for a lot of optimism for this season. Jump forward 7 months, a huge part of the crew back, some astute trades and recruits to upgrade, older, bigger, different mind set, 7 rookies to start the season and 3 students at CSS. The players and staff are very serious about the goal they wish to achieve. The hard work at practices and dryland training generates what we will call happy sweat, while the lungs burn and muscles scream for relief, the sheen on their faces is feel good. A one for all and all for one mentality is being absorbed in the “room” and on the ice. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they are there for each other.
The season opener at home, a full harvest moon, Friday the 13th of September, Johnny Cash singing a ballad at 7:00 pm, the lights dim and the team steps on the ice, no fanfare, no announcement, it’s time to get to work. Our friends from Armstrong, the North Okanagan KNIGHTS are here to face off versus our Chase HEAT. In the 1st period the visitors suck some oxygen out of the Art Holding Memorial Arena by taking a 2 goal lead. With 15 plus minutes gone Breckin Erichuk scores assisted by Gavin Mattey and Evan Vinterlik. In the 2nd the KNIGHTS restore their 2 goal lead prior to Hayden Wiebe scoring on the man advantage from Matthew Poole and Cam Watson. Nothing finds the back of the nets in the 3rd and this one goes into the books as a 3-2 win for the visitors. What didn’t help were the untimely and unnecessary penalties taken by the HEAT. Live and learn and expect Head Coach Brad Fox to point out the obvious…you can’t score from the penalty box.
Saturday Night the 14th is alright for a road game in Kamloops at the barn on Victoria Street, Memorial Arena. The decent size crowd was mostly HEAT fans expecting a rhubarb riot between teams that have never got along. Once more a number of unnecessary infractions were taken but the anticipated silliness didn’t occur. In the 1st Russell Hassler from Trevor Kennedy and Marino Bordin got the HEAT on the scoreboard. The 2nd saw Vinterlik on the powerplay pop one in from Poole and Wiebe followed 6 minutes later by another man advantage tally from Mattey assisted by Wiebe and Watson. Shortly after the STORM got a deflection off a skate to shorten the lead. In the 3rd Kamloops scored while Chase was on the penalty kill. Tyson Lampreau then lit the lamp from Jayden Russell and Luke Recchi to have this contest end 4-2 for the visiting Chase HEAT. Three of the four goals were scored by a trio of local talent, “Chasers” Hassler, Mattey and Lampreau putting the icing on the cake! Rookie Jordan Foster backstopped the team in both weekend games with very solid performances.
Heat Beat: Gavin Mattey was named an Assistant Captain prior to the opening game. Mattey joins Captain Cam Watson, Evan Hughes and Brett Alexander as this season’s “letters”. Caleb Biensch the 20 year old veteran defenceman from Saskatchewan has left post secondary education to rejoin the HEAT. Dylan Barton the veteran goalie has returned from the Saskatchewan Junior A ranks, as has 20 year old power forward Colton Nikiforuk. All three are expected to make a difference in offence, defence and goal. Stay tuned as stomachs churn…it ain’t over till…