The Cranbrook Bucks are back on the ice, as the team welcomed back returning players, new roster commitments and invites at training camp at Western Financial Place.
As the new season dawns, Bucks GM and head coach Ryan Donald put the players through their paces with fitness testing, practices and intrasquad games over two days.
“It’s obviously an exciting time of year, an optimistic time of year and a chance to get your group back together. New players showing up and guys trying to ear opportunities with the program, returning guys likewise, they come in, they’re looking to show what they’ve done over the summer, what steps they’ve made to maybe get a bigger role and more opportunities.”
Whether in the practices or the intrasqad game situations, Donald and the coaching staff were always watching and evaluating.
“In the games you’re looking for guys who are competitive, who can create and think the game. It’s a tough environment because there’s typically less structure, a little bit less with five-man units and thinking along the same wavelength at times because it’s so early,” Donald said.
“Getting players where you can see their competitiveness, their work ethic, see how hard they track and play defence, how committed they are to that; things of that nature is kind of the fun part of those intrasquad games for us as coaches because maybe we do little pieces of teaching to try to gauge how receptive certain players are to that, who can handle certain things during the course of a game or in between periods.”
The camp roster included approximately 35 players, which will be pared down in the coming weeks as the club paces through a four-game exhibition schedule.
That roster includes 10 returnees and a number of off-season player commitments, including two out of Sweden — F Oskar Cederqvist and D Loke Södergren — as the BCHL status as an independent league opens up the recruiting pool to overseas markets.
“They’re young men who are coming a long way to be here, they’ve hit the ground running and our guys have been terrific in terms of welcoming them and bringing them up to speed, adjusting to North America both as hockey players and people as well,” said Donald.
In addition to new players, a new but familiar face will be behind the bench alongside Donald, as Josh Siembida has joined the club as an assistant coach. Siembida and Donald go back to their days coaching together with the Yale University men’s hockey program.
The Bucks will hit the road on Wednesday (Sept. 7) for an exhibition game against the Trail Smoke Eaters, returning to Cominco Arena for a double header against Prince George Spruce Kings and Powell River on Sept. 14 and 15, respectively.
The Bucks will host the Smokies for their final pre-season game on Sept. 16 at Western Financial Place.