By: Dylan Webb – Sports Editor
Editor’s note: Dylan Webb is on the roster for the SFU men’s ice hockey team.
The SFU men’s ice hockey team kicked off their annual August training camp on Monday with a significantly different roster than the one that finished in fourth place in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) last season. While four pre-season games leave some time for roster spots and roles to be solidified, it’s clear that the club is looking to turn the page on a frustrating few seasons that have lacked playoff success despite periodic flashes of dominance.
This week’s training camp was the first opportunity for a host of new recruits to come together with a core of returning veterans to begin building chemistry in preparation for a demanding pre-season schedule riddled with tough opponents. The Clan’s pre-season will begin with the annual Captain’s Cup tournament against local rivals TWU (Trinity Western University) and the USports affiliated UBC (University of British Columbia) Thunderbirds. It will culminate in a trip to Massachusetts to take on NCAA Division 1 opponents Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. Barring any unforeseen early season additions, the roster that will compete for playing time in these games has taken shape.
In goal, the Clan will be without veteran netminder and recent graduate Ryan Sandrin. Returning is second year goaltender Michael Lenko, alongside new recruits Andrew Henderson and BCIHL veteran Patrick Zubick. Transferring from Castlegar, Zubick is joining the Clan for his fourth BCIHL season and to complete his degree. This trio of netminders will look to solidify the crease for an SFU team that will need to strengthen its team defense.
The defensive side of the puck was certainly the offseason recruiting focus for head coach Mark Coletta, as many key d-men recently graduated, including former captain and BCIHL all-time leader in games played Matthew Berry-Lamontagna. With only Matthew Holowko, Arjan Cheema, Domenic Masellis and Daniyal Nussipakynov returning, Coletta made it a primary goal of this offseason to fill out the back end. An extensive list of recruits that includes Matt Krawiec, Jake Keremidschieff, Jordan Dawson, Adamu Tanaka, Matt Brown and Colton Gerlib will join as SFU maintains its focus on solidifying its team defense heading into the regular season.
The forward group will clearly benefit from the most continuity as the Clan looks to take their offensive production to new heights in 2019-2020. On the offensive side of things, returning forwards Nic Holowko, Cole Plotnikoff, Mathieu Jallabert, Mitch Ledyard, Mac Colasimone, Kyle Bergh, Arjun Badh and Eric Callegari will be joined by new recruits Ty Westgard, Justin Lee, Takato Cox and Christian Bosa.
Once again, head coach Coletta returns as the winningest coach in BCIHL history for his ninth season at the helm. The holes on the coaching staff left by the departure of assistant coaches Jimmy Cammazola and Matt Grassi will surely be filled before the regular season as the roster revamp extends onto the bench as well. This as-of-yet solidified coaching staff is complemented by director of hockey operations and BCIHL league president Chris Munshaw. The team will continue to benefit from years of experience in the league while also looking outside the organization for coaching staff to complement its experienced core.
Asked about one or two areas where he expects the Clan to be stronger than last season in an interview with The Peak, coach Coletta pointed to team defense and depth as definite areas of improvement. “I think our improved depth will be much better this year, but it’s the team defense that I think will take the biggest step forward,” he said after day three of the team’s training camp. Further to this, Coletta discussed the necessity of “every player on the roster competing hard every day against their fellow teammates for ice time and opportunities” as a necessary ingredient in building a winning team. He noted that,“Friendly competition within a team, especially early in the season, breeds success” as the team prepared for its first game together.
As the final days of summer fade away into the beginning of a new semester and hockey season, excitement and energy are palpable at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre where the team trains. With the Clan’s home opener set for Friday October 11th against the Vancouver Island University Mariners, two BCIHL rivals are preparing to square off for early season points that will certainly figure in playoff races that will shape up come February and March. Any day now, the quiet calmness of the Bill Copeland Sports Centre will be shattered by goal sirens and cheering fans as the SFU men’s ice hockey team begins their quest for the organization’s fourth BCIHL championship.