I found these press releases off team websites, twitter accounts, blogs or online. All Vipers news-trades are posted on this blog as soon as released-announced.
BCHL News & Trades:
Christensen Talks S’Backs Season:
BCHL teams are gearing up for the 2019-20 season with exhibition game over the next two weeks. Hockeytube.net caught up with Governor and Ops Manager Brooks Christensen to talk about the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The team has been undergoing a number of renovations to its store front and dressing room while also getting the players ready for another tough season in one of the best divisions in Junior A hockey.
One On One With Cam Keith:
When the Surrey Eagles open training camp next week, the two busiest people in South Surrey Arena may not be a player or coach, but rather the play-by-play announcer tasked with remembering a host of new players, and the equipment manager responsible for stitching those players’ last names on the backs of the uniforms. Because to suggest there will be a few new faces in the locker room this year is something of an understatement. All told, just three players from last year’s BC Hockey League team – second-year forward Brandon Santa Juana, 19-year-old Holden Katzalay and new captain Cody Schiavon – are set to return in Eagles colours for the 2019/20 season. Replacing outgoing players is nothing new in junior hockey – players graduate or move to new teams or leagues every season – but the amount of turnover facing the Eagles is unusually high, new head coach Cam Keith admits. It’s also by design. “It’s pretty rare – (this amount of turnover) just doesn’t happen at all, but I’m excited because these are my guys coming in, guys who I’ve recruited,” said the 38-year-old Keith, who was hired by the team in March. “When I came in, I kind of took the philosophy that I wasn’t going to try to change anybody (who was already here)… I was just going to bring in my own guys who I believe in, and do it that way.” That philosophy seems to be one shared by the team’s general manager Blaine Neufeld, who last November – in the wake of former head coach Peter Schaefer’s firing – told Peace Arch News that Schaefer was put in an unenviable position of having to take over the top coaching job just days before training camp, after former coach Brandon West resigned. “Any coach is going to want months to prepare for a season, and is going to want to recruit the players that you want at an earlier stage than Day 1 of camp, and Peter wasn’t given that opportunity,” Neufeld said at the time. “We tried to adjust (the roster) on the fly and that’s not an easy thing to do in junior hockey.” The team finished the season with just 13 wins, missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons and went through three head coaches; current assistant Linden Saip finished last year as the interim bench boss. Change, then, was inevitable this summer, Keith said. “With the unfortunate season we had last year, we have to sort of rebuild certain areas,” he said. “I’m excited, because we’ll have a ton of new kids who I think are going to bring a really good energy. There will be no hard feelings from last year, and I think everyone is excited to get started with something new. “We’re putting the past behind us.” The new crop of players include about a dozen players coming from hockey academies or the major-midget system, as well as a handful of older players, many of whom arrive from U.S. programs with NCAA scholarships already in tow. Despite their varied backgrounds, Keith said they all have one thing in common – they’re smart hockey players. “Our philosophy was to recruit to recruit players with a high hockey I.Q., and kids who move pucks fast. Not kids who necessarily skate fast, but guys who just move the puck (up the ice) quickly,” Keith explained. “We want to use our Olympic-sized ice to our advantage, so I went after kids who can read plays as they’re happening and can move the puck quickly.” Keith, who is also the associate general manager with the Eagles, joins the team after one year spent as an associate coach with the Chilliwack Chiefs. Prior to that, he spent two seasons as the head coach/GM of the Trail Smoke Eaters and two as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. As a player, he spent three seasons in the BCHL, in Victoria and Trail, before playing four years at the NCAA’s University of Alaska-Fairbanks, followed by a handful of years playing professionally in both North America and Europe. Even with so many different cities on his hockey resume – or perhaps because of it – Keith said he preaches patience and stability as a junior-hockey coach. Aside from a few players who have requested trades, he’s never traded a player in-season, he told PAN. “Stability is my main focus. You want to be a family, and everyone is an important part of it,” he said. “Even if a kid isn’t playing well, he’s still an important part of it if he’s working hard, so you have to be patient with him and let him find his game, rather than bringing in the unknown.” Such an approach will be a stark contrast to last year, for example, when the Eagles’ opening-day roster barely resembled the one that finished the season. “That’ll be different now, I can guarantee you that,” Keith said. With an eye towards giving his young group – which as of now has no 20-year-olds – time to gel, Keith was hesitant to toss around any wins-and-losses predictions for the coming year, though he said a playoff spot “is achievable.” “We want to have moderate expectations when it comes to wins and losses, just because we are so young. But we want to be competitive, and you never want to rule anything out, because you just don’t know,” he said. The team will open training camp on Monday, Aug. 19, and Day 1 will include an intra-squad game that is open to the public. The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at South Surrey Arena. Surrey’s official preseason schedule begins Aug. 22, when they travel to Langley to take on the Rivermen. The first home game of the exhibition schedule is Aug. 24 against the Chiefs. Surrey opens the regular season on the road, with back-to-back games in Prince George from Sept. 6-7. The home-opener is Sept. 13 against Coquitlam.
2019-20 Penticton Vees Spotlight: Lukas Sillinger
One of two Vees to be entering their third season in the Peach City is forward Lukas Sillinger, having played a total of 90 BCHL games all in Penticton. During the 2018/19 campaign, the 5’10”, 172-pound left handed shot amassed 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points in 34 games played with a season that was hampered a bit due to injuries, “Both my years in Penticton have been really good years and a couple of the best years of my life” said Sillinger. “My first season playing with my brother (Owen) was a great experience and in my second year, I battled some injuries at times and it wasn’t the year our team was looking for but we can’t dwell on the past and move forward to bring back a National Championship to the City of Penticton.” Being a third year member of the Vees, Sillinger knows the expectations of the organization, “Fred and his staff do a great job in getting the guys ready and I know everyone will be dialled in at the start of camp,” Silinger explained, “Penticton is the best spot to play junior hockey so I’m sure everyone is really excited to come in there and, coming into my third season, I’m going to do my best to help out the guys as much as I can.” During the 2018/19 season, the Regina, Saskatchewan native was able to secure his future in hockey by committing to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a tough decision but one that Sillinger felt was the right one, “It was a tough decision between Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State and having the chance to play with Owen,” said Sillinger, “But I took my visit down to Omaha last season and they treated me with so much respect and I loved the program there and I’m really looking forward to heading there.” The Sillinger name is one that is notorious in hockey circles with father Mike having played through a very successful 1,049 game NHL career. Older brother Owen’s name is very familiar with fans in Penticton after playing three seasons with the Vees, including a Fred Page Cup championship in 2017 and captaining the team during the 2017/18 season. Younger brother Cole has just begun his junior hockey career and signed on with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. In a family full of hockey, there weren’t many occasions that games wouldn’t break out, “Hockey has always been a big thing in our family,” Sillinger mentioned, “From playing mini-sticks in the basement to street hockey to fooling around in the garage , hockey is basically our lives. Passed down from my father, my brothers and I have learnt a lot from him and have been very supportive of us and my mom has been there every step of the way for us and we couldn’t be more thankful for them too.” Having the chance to play with his older brother during the 2017/18 season is something Lukas relished in, “It was a pretty special year for us,” Sillinger recalled, “Our whole family was done there for the season and we don’t get many chances to play together being three years apart but it was an amazing year to get to spend some time with him.” With all of the Sillinger kids away from home, whether it be playing junior or collegiate hockey, the summers where everyone can get together mean that much more, “As you get older, you learn to appreciate each other more when you come back in the summer,” Sillinger said, “We spend as much time together as we can in the summer and my family loves that, it will be the first year that my parents won’t have any boys at the house so they will be travelling a lot and coming to a lot of our games.” There are a lot of things that Sillinger is looking forward to when coming back to Penticton for his third season, “The facilities that we get to use and the rink we get to play in and how well we get treated by the staff and our trainers and everyone is so supportive of us” Sillinger explained. When it comes to a leadership role, Sillinger is looking forward to helping out some of his younger teammates, “As you get older, you want to grow into a bigger leadership role and help with the younger guys who might not be as familiar with playing junior hockey,” said Sillinger, “I remember when I was younger, I was a bit nervous coming to the team and the older guys were great to me and always helped me out so I want to help do the same thing.”
New Grizzlies Captain Plans To Lead By Example:
If last year’s B.C. Hockey League playoffs are any indication, the Victoria Grizzlies’ leadership group is in good hands this season. And those hands belong to a couple of homegrown talents. The Grizzlies will be led on and off the ice this season by a pair of players heading into their fourth BCHL seasons as the club on Tuesday named forward Marty Westhaver captain and fellow 20-year-old Island product, defenceman Nico Somerville, as associate captain. “They’re two very deserving players who have served our club for a long time and have the experience to be great leaders in this league,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, whose club opens training camp on Monday at Juan de Fuca Arena. The speedy and skilled Westhaver had an OK regular season last year but when the playoffs rolled around, “Big Game Marty’ came to the forefront. The Spectrum Community School grad’s eight goals in 13 playoff games last spring were second best on the team after Colorado Avalanche first-round draft pick Alex Newhook’s 11. And Westhaver missed the last two games of the Coastal Conference final against Prince George with a shoulder injury. “I’m super excited about the opportunity to lead this team and I think we have a great group of veterans coming back and some really skilled new guys so I’m really looking forward to the season,” said Westhaver, who has played 168 regular season games in the BCHL and another 30 playoff contests. “I’ve played three seasons with the Grizzlies now and I think I can pass along alot of knowledge about the team and what it takes to play in the B.C. Hockey League.” Westhaver has some big shoes to fill with the Grizzlies captaincy as Newhook led the BCHL in scoring before being selected 16th overall by the Avalanche in June’s NHL draft in Vancouver. But the Saanich Minor Hockey product says he’s more than up for the task. “You can learn so much from a guy like Alex, just from watching how he performs on the ice, his work ethic and dedication to the game. He’s an amazing player and to be captain at such a young age like 18 takes a lot of character and I learned a lot from him and hope to pass that along to the younger players this season.” Somerville, who hails from Port Alberni, is coming off his best regular season in the BCHL, scoring six goals and adding 30 assists in 57 games, and he, too, had an impressive showing in the post-season, despite also missing a pair of games in the final series due to injury. The smooth-skating blue-liner had four goals and three assists in 13 playoff games. And like Westhaver, Somerville has plenty of post-season experience having played 25 playoff games in the past two season. Both players are also looking to secure NCAA scholarships this season and Westhaver expects a strong season by the team will go along way to helping them achieve their goals. “We have a talented group this year and now it’s up to us veterans to lead the way, especially early with all the road games at the start of the season,” added Westhaver, whose team will play its first eight games away from The Q Centre. “I’ve been in this league for a long time now and I know how important a good start is and it’s up to me and the rest of the leadership group to pass that along. We’re going to have a good season.”
Warriors Name Nikkel New Assistant Coach:
The West Kelowna Warriors Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club is pleased to announce the hiring of Ayrton Nikkel as an Assistant Coach and Paige Shannon as Athletic Therapist. Nikkel, 24, comes to the Warriors after playing four seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL) while finishing his junior career with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) in 2015. After playing with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in 2016-17, the Kelowna native would return to the Okanagan and transfer to UBC Okanagan. “I returned home because the Okanagan Valley will always have my heart and the UBC Okanagan campus and their professors, are the highest quality” commented Nikkel, “I have been teaching on ice skills to players of all ages for the better part of a decade now and the opportunity to teach the game to experienced players was an opportunity I could not pass up.” Nikkel has had a previous relationship with Warriors Head Coach and General Manager Brandon West dating back to their time with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. “I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and a person,” stated Nikkel. “I was honored he considered me for the position and has confidence in me to develop the defensive core of the team.” Warriors Head Coach and General Manager Brandon West states “Ayrton gave everything he had as a player and I look forward to seeing him develop as a coach now. He’s done a tremendous job as a player development coach in his time away from playing the game. It’s a great fit for our defencemen and our team will benefit greatly from him. The Warriors also welcome Paige Shannon to the Central Okanagan. Shannon brings a wealth of experience in Athletic therapy after graduating from the University of Winnipeg in 2016. Shannon would then move on to Olds, Alberta where she spent time with the Olds Grizzlys Midget club, Olds Mavericks Lacrosse, Olds College Broncos Women’s Hockey(ACAC), and was part of the Medical staff at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer this past February. “Paige has incredible passion for the game and separated herself in the interview process because of it. She really cares for her players health and wellness and that’s what the position is all about,” stated Warriors General Manager and Head Coach Brandon West. “Our players are fortunate to have someone with the qualifications she has. Paige came highly recommended by a lot of people in the hockey world”. The Warriors would like to welcome Ayrton and Paige to the Warriors organization and the City of West Kelowna. In addition, the Warriors are pleased to welcome back Goaltending Coach Chad Carder. This will be Chad’s 6th season with the Warriors. “Chad’s passion to develop goaltenders is second to none. He has the ability to develop their strengths while correcting weaknesses. He’s very committed to them as well as our team” says HC/GM Brandon West.
2019-20 Penticton Vees Spotlight: Jack Barnes