After a successful training camp, the Castlegar Rebels are preparing for their first pre-season action which goes Sept. 7 in Fruitvale against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
The Nitehawks, of course, eliminated the Rebels in game seven of the second round of last year’s KIJHL play-offs. So expect a bit more intensity than usual, despite the game being an exhibition.
Although both teams have lost big pieces from last year, they should both still be in the hunt for the Neil Murdoch Division and possibly KIJHL titles.
“Training camp went really well,” said Rebels’ head coach Steve Junker. “We were really happy with it. We had a number of good kids out there. Obviously, it was a camp that was before a number of kids were heading off to Junior A. But we were able to make some good decisions that we are comfortable heading into our preseason schedule before we make some definite decisions.”
Junker says that although the Rebs’ roster looks solid, it will be several weeks before the roster has settled in.
“It’s going to be a wait and see for some guys, who will, unfortunately, be waiting on pins and needles,” he said. “Their play will determine whether they stay here or not.”
The Rebels will also know in a few weeks which Junior A cuts will play.
“Our plan is to have our roster pretty much set by the time the regular season starts,” said Junker. “You try to leave yourself a little bit of room to move, but at the same time we could be in a position where we’re really comfortable with our team and want to just go with that, which has pretty much been the case for the last two seasons. We’ve carried our team right through and made very few moves. At least in comparison to other teams.”
Junker said the coaches are pleased with some of the players that showed up at camp.
“I won’t say surprises, but there were a few kids we weren’t sure about and they ended up showing well so we’re bringing them back,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. Obviously, the pre-season play is up a notch, another half step. So it’s another chance for guys to see if they can still compete and carry on through the season. We all know as the season goes on, the play moves up a notch again.”
For the time being, the Rebels are practicing hard and continuing to evaluate players as they prepare for the season.
“In a way, it’s like an extension of training camp,” said Junker. “There are players being evaluated. We still have decisions to make and we have that time before the regular season starts. So we’re going to use it to evaluate certain players we’re maybe not sure about and need to see more of. So we’ll take a look at them in practices and in games.”