Just like that, after a quick four-day main camp, the Canmore Eagles have jumped into AJHL pre-season action.
More than 80 players started the weekend on Friday (Sept. 1) with the hope of making the local AJHL squad, but that number was halved on Sunday after a series of inter-squad games. The 40 was reduced further after Monday’s (Sept. 4) annual blue/white game.
Those 27 now represent the roster the Eagles will start the 2017-18 season with. Pre-season action started Wednesday (Sept. 6) with the Eagles on the road to play the Calgary Mustangs. Tonight (Sept. 7), the Eagles host the Calgary Canucks, while the pre-season wraps up Sept. 9-10, with the Eagles hosting the Mustangs and in Calgary versus the Canucks.
This year’s Eagles camp featured many young players, said Andrew Milne, coach and general manager. “We knew a lot of them weren’t going to be playing here this year, but it’s great to expose them to the junior A level and the expectations we have. I think that’s part of the development process.
“I was happy with the way played, but with those young guys, I think the vets got a bit complacent, it was almost too easy at times, but we’re really going to amp it up in these last days.
“I thought the inter-squad game (blue/white) was more amped up than the other games and I think we’ll start the process of making sure our guys understand it’s going to be on.”
The blue/white game was an up tempo affair, with a mix of returning veterans and new faces vying for spots on the team. The Eagles will open the pre-season with mostly the younger players, then work in more veterans as the four-game pre-season continues.
Having cast a critical eye over his charges in the main camp, Milne said veteran defenceman Jarell Pinchuk, 20, appeared to be in good form and ready to start the season (four goals, 30 assists over 57 games in 2016-17).
“I knew Jarell would be good and I thought he was real good throughout camp and I think he’s poised to have himself a really good year. I liked the way he played.
“And I liked some of the young guys like Max Giangualano and Justin Giacomin, two guys I expected to be good, but maybe stepped up. Jake Ashton also played well. He had a knee injury in January and didn’t finish the year, so he’s had a lot of time off and I thought he was real good through camp.”
Goalie Logan Dyck was expected to start in Calgary on Wednesday, while Thomas Davis will play two or three to get ready as the returning veteran in the crease.
“It’s a short pre-season, so the vets have gotta be ready and the timing has gotta be on.”
Going into the main camp, Milne said he expected to be solid defensively, but possibly somewhat offensively challenged after several top league scorers from last year moved on to college play.
“We have a lot of guys who have scored. Max (Giangualano) put up some good numbers in midget AAA and Tian Rask out of Saskatchewan put up good numbers and is poised to have a good year.
“So some of the young guys can play in the offensive position and then you look at guys like Coy Prevost, who’s going to have to have a big year offensively. And Mitch Zambon and Colton Young will have to help out.”
For his part, Pinchuk said he thought it was a good camp and he was surprised at how some of the younger players performed.
“It was a good camp and we have a good young group of guys. Looking at the age of them, they were all out here battling hard and competing with the older guys.
“And I was feeling good out there, I thought I was skating hard and was happy with myself.”
Pinchuk said he put in plenty of time in the gym at home in Sherwood Park over the summer months in preparation for the season. In his fifth AJHL season, Pinchuk said he wants to take on a leadership role and turn in a season that will catch scouts’ attention.
“It’s my fifth year and I want to get some points; more than last year. Try to come out hot and be at least where I finished up last year.”
For more from Dave Whitfield visit http://www.rmoutlook.com