The Castlegar Rebels are heading into training camp on Aug. 19-21 with a strong core of returning players and several newcomers hoping to earn spots. With several key players expected back and the recent acquisition of KIJHL MVP Scott Morisseau (in picture below), the Rebs are expected to once again be one of the league’s top teams.
With the B.C. Senior Games in town, the Rebels were forced to move their camp to Osoyoos, where they will train at of the Sun Bowl Arena.
“We’ll know a lot after this weekend,” said coach Steve Junker. “I foresee us having another strong team. We’ll definitely be a little bit younger due to the fact of the success we had last year.”
Graduating from the Rebels to post-secondary teams were: leading scorer Ryan Ainsley, NCAA Division 1 Northern Michigan; Darren Tarasoff, Grant McEwan University in Alberta; Eric Wentzel, Adrian College in Michigan; and Mike Wiest, University of Lethbridge.
Also expected not to return after signing with Junior A teams are Stuart Walton, who placed fourth in Rebel scoring last year with 55 points, and Jamie Valnich.
Several other Rebels eligible to return will be trying out for Junior A teams.
“We gauge our success as a program on many different levels – wins and losses, how we do in play-offs is a big one,” said Junker. “But we are a developmental league and just seeing guys getting opportunities is another way we judge our success. It’s exciting.”
“Our play-off run did wonders for guys. It gives you not only the exposure but experience. We played 22 games in 40 days. It’s like another half a season and the hockey you’re playing is twice as intense.”
Although the Rebels will miss the departed players, expect the returnees and newcomers to put their own mark on the team.
Recently acquired Rebel forward Scott Morisseau
“The development aspect of our league and hockey club sees a lot of players move on,” explained the coach. “Which means we’ll be a little younger, having recruited younger players to fill those spots vacated by players who have moved on.”
The Rebels expect to have around 40 players at camp in Osoyoos. At the conclusion of camp, the coaches will pare the team down.
“We have a number of our players heading off to Junior A camps so we don’t know when they will be back. We wish them all the best,” said Junker. “We’ve got some good players coming to our camp. I expect them to perform very well. We’re looking at getting a real good idea about who will be the majority of our players.” The team will have another mini-camp in Castlegar on Sept. 2-4.
“We’ll bring the kids we liked in Osoyoos back to the camp in Castlegar and hopefully see some more kids that didn’t make it to Osoyoos. We want to give every kid an opportunity if they want to try out,” said Junker.
Castlegar’s pre-season starts Sept. 7, hosting Nelson.