After a tremendous debut, reaching the league final in his inaugural season as a coach in the KIJHL, followed by a reasonably successful conclusion to the 2011/12 season, Rebel head Coach Steve Junker is now moving on to his third season as coach of the Castlegar Rebels.
Junker has lost three of the premier forwards in the Kootenay International League, with the graduation of Anthony Delong, Scott Morriseau and Tyler Robison. Collectively these three forwards accounted for 93 of the 253 goals the Rebels scored last season.
So where will the goals come from this time around?
“I think it’s going to be more of a score-by-committee,” Junker said Tuesday night. “Obviously, losing those three top guys is big for any team. I feel with the returning guys and the guys coming in, everybody is going to have a bigger role this season.
“That’s where guys who didn’t have such a big role last season get a chance to step up and see what they can do.”
It appears that Junker and the Rebels will have the core of their coaching staff back this season. Jessie Dorans, Darcy Martini, and Bruno Tassone will assist Junker this season.
“Getting these guys assisting me behind the bench has been critical in past seasons for the success of the Rebels,” said the coach.
“These guys see things that I can’t always see during our games and practices and that helps our players adjust and work on this stuff during the season. It’s this attention to detail that contributes to our team success and to graduating as many players as possible to higher levels in their hockey careers.”
In the past three seasons the Rebels have moved over nine players to NCAA or Jr A teams.
Junker and the Rebels are now moving into their exhibition season against local rivals Nelson and Beaver Valley, with the first regular season home game on Saturday September 15th against Nelson.
“It’s shaping up to be a good team,” he said. “We had a good mix of returning guys and new guys at camp. It’s showing a lot of promise. I think we’ll be very competitive, much like we were last season.”
Last season, the Rebels finished 37-14-1, good for second place in the Neil Murdoch Division, just nine points behind the eventual KIJHL champion Beaver Valley Night Hawks. The Rebels then bowed out in the second round of playoffs, losing in seven games to the Night Hawks.
Junker said he’s looking for the likes of veterans Stewart Walton, Eric Alden, and goaltenders Jordan Gluck and Connor Beauchamp to lead the team this year with a strong contingent of returning veterans.
“I think our fans will be pleased with the team we field this year, as we have some strong returning veterans, and some impressive new players entering the line-up. I think we will be competitive and with some late additions from WHL and junior A teams we can make those final adjustments we need, to get us where we want to be.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going so far,” he said. “The tempo has been good in our practices and I’m excited to get into some exhibition games and get the season underway.”
JUST NOTES: The Rebels play their first home exhibition game on Saturday Sept 8 against the BV Night Hawks. Game time at Complex will be 7:30 p.m. . . . An exhibition game is scheduled for Sunday Sept. 9 between the Nelson Maple Leafs and the Rebels at the Complex starting at 2 p.m. The first home regular season game is on Saturday, September 15, vs. the Nelson Maple Leafs.
– Jim Craig