One of the great things about the exhibition hockey season is that the points don’t count, coaches get a chance to evaluate their future prospects, and younger rookie players get the opportunity to experience the true pace of Junior A hockey.
Such was the case on Tuesday night when the visiting Calgary Canucks blanked the home-town Canmore Eagles 4-0 in the first of four exhibition games for the Alberta Junior Hockey League Eagles.
With 12 veterans players sitting in the stands wearing their finest suits, and three top rookie prospects away attending various Western Hockey League training camps, Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne used his first exhibition game of the 2013-14 season as an opportunity to evaluate his inexperienced prospects.
“Exhibition games are a great opportunity to evaluate your younger players,” said Milne, who team was outshot 39-27 on the night. “You’d obviously like to win the games, but at this early stage of the exhibition season, it’s more important to put the younger guys on the ice and give them the experience of playing at the Junior A level. All of our players have worked extremely hard over the past five days of training camp and they deserved the opportunity to play in at least one game for us.”
Immediately following the game, Milne had the unpleasant task of informing many of his players that suited up for the first exhibition game that their services would no longer be required for this year and that they would be returning to their respective Midget teams for the 2013-14.
“Hopefully these players learned a lot from this year’s training camp and gained some great experience. They now know what it takes to compete at this level and they will go back and start working on their skill level. When they return to us next year for training camp, they will be much better prepared. It’s all part of the process.”
Canmore will now head into Calgary for a three game mini-tournament this weekend to wrap up their exhibition schedule with games against the Calgary Mustangs (Friday August 30 at 3 PM), Calgary Canucks (Sat. August 31 at 7 PM) and Olds Grizzlys (Sunday, Sept. 1 at 1 PM). All games will be played at the Max Bell Arena.
“We’ll be going with a more experienced lineup this weekend as we prepare for the regular season,” said Milne, whose club will open the regular season at home on Friday, Sept. 6 against the Drumheller Dragons. “With any luck, we’ll get some of our players back from the WHL camps in the next few days and we can start to finalize our line combinations. Three games in three days on the road will be a good challenge for us and provide us with a good measuring stick as to how well we stack up with the competition. I’m looking forward to it.”