The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are already looking forward to next year, as the Cyclone Taylor Cup champions hosted about 60 skaters at its Spring Camp on the weekend at the Beaver Valley Arena.
The Nitehawks coaching staff put a combination of veteran Nitehawks players and new recruits through three days of scrimmage and workouts to determine who will return to the Main Camp in August and beyond.
“It was really good,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Bill Birks. “We had four teams, and some veteran guys from our team came back, and we had a few Smoke Eaters come out. It was competitive, had lots of young kids, local kids, it was very successful.”
The Spring Camp not only offers the coaching staff an opportunity to identify prospects for the upcoming season, but also to create relationships with younger players, introduce them to the Nitehawks culture, and establish contacts for the future.
“We talk to every kid in camp locally, and all the local kids will be back (for main camp) to get more experience,” said Birks. “There’s probably half of them that are too young to play, but the other half are battling 16 year olds, and hopefully they have a good summer, put some work in, get stronger, and get their cardio up and work out. After a good summer you never know what can happen.”
With five players graduating (forwards Tyler Hartman, Mitch Foyle, and Kyle Hope, goalie Tallon Kramer, and defenceman McKoy Hauck) and more poised to move on to the Junior A ranks, the Hawks are still in a good position for the upcoming season.
“Last year we had two or three (spots to fill), this year we may have seven or nine. There’s probably half a dozen, six to eight guys going to Junior A camps.”
The Nitehawks will undoubtedly miss all-star goalie Tallon Kramer, but Smithers native Owen Sikkes proved a reliable backup and will likely take the leading role in the Hawks crease this season.
The Hawks have a number of veterans eligible to return next season, including team captain Sam Swanson, but look for forwards Tyler Ghirardosi, Bradley Ross, Jaxen Gemmell and Dylan Heppler, and defencemen Karsten Jang, Jake Yuris, and Dylan Kent to move up the ranks.
The Nitehawks came within a goal of winning the Western Canadian Keystone Cup championship last month, but thrilled fans with another KIJHL title and BC championship Cyclone Taylor Cup, their second in four years. The Hawks coaches expect no less for the upcoming season.
“We were pretty deep, we had four good lines, seven good defencemen and two good goalies and you don’t get that too often,” added Birks. “But we’re going to have a good compliment of guys coming in, that are coming back and high-end guys again, and pretty good rookies. Like (coach and GM) Terry (Jones) said the other day, ‘We’re in it to win it every year.’”