The Kimberley Dynamiters got a head start on the KIJHL trade deadline late Thursday night, acquiring 19-year-old forward Tanner Wit from the Golden Rockets in exchange for a player development fee.
In addition, the Dynamiters released local product Marco Campanella (1997), who then signed on with the Columbia Valley Rockies.
Wrapping up a busy Thursday, Dynamiters general manager Mike Reid also confirmed forward Brendon Benson (1996) had returned home, deciding to retire from hockey.
The addition of Wit provides the Dynamiters with a versatile, experienced leader as they make a run for a second consecutive KIJHL championship.
“[Tanner] is a guy who I give credit to. He’s had two tough years in Golden, but he comes and plays hard every night,” Reid said Friday afternoon. “He’ll come in and he’ll fit in with our guys.
“He’s the type of guy that I know can fit into our top-six or top-nine right away. He also can play defence… so he’s versatile that way.
“We thought it would be nice to give a kid an opportunity to come on board and hopefully make a run with us… It was pretty much a no-brainer, as [Tanner] said to us, once he heard we were interested. He authorized the trade, was here [in Kimberley] this morning and he’s getting on the bus and going back to Golden [for Friday’s game].”
Wit is expected to debut Friday night (7 p.m.) when the Dynamiters visit the Golden Rockets.
In 29 games with the Rockets, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Calgary, registered six goals and 16 points. In 78 career KIJHL games, all with Golden, Wit has collected 12 goals and 30 points.
On Campanella, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Kimberley product had been taken off a card back on Dec. 1 after suffering what Reid described as a serious shoulder injury.
“It’s the tough part of the game, we had to protect ourselves,” Reid said. “We took him off a card at the deadline Dec. 1 to make sure we had freed up some space in case he was ruled unable to play the rest of the year.
“He was going to cleared to play this week, but I think in some ways, Marco was looking for a little bit more ice time, which was something we maybe couldn’t provide.”
Earlier in the season, Reid’s squad was hit hard, losing both Tristan Pagura and Jesse Wallace to similar shoulder injuries that ultimately ended up ending the seasons for both players.
Up the highway in Invermere, head coach Wade Dubielewicz came calling and in short order, Campanella had joined the Rockies.
“Marco is a great kid,” Reid said. “We wish him the best of luck. I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing us next Friday [Jan. 15 at the Kimberley Civic Centre].”
In 21 games this season, Campanella posted two goals and five points. Over 100 career games with the Dynamiters, the energetic forward registered 12 goals and 35 points.
As for Benson, the end to what was once a promising junior career brings to light what can be the sad and harsh reality of life for a young hockey player.
The 19-year-old native of Lethbridge was once a prospect of the WHL’s Victoria Royals, having been selected in the seventh round (144th overall) at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.
After bouncing from Alberta Major Midget to Alberta Junior A to Saskatchewan Junior A, Benson finally landed in Kimberley. After eight games with the Nitros, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward decided enough was enough.
“The game of hockey, unfortunately, has kicked Brendon around a little bit,” Reid said Wednesday afternoon. “What a lot of parents don’t know and what a lot of people don’t know is what goes on behind the scenes in the meat grinder that junior hockey can be.
“[Brendon] just lost his passion for the game. He needed to be home with his family and that’s where he should be.”
In eight appearances with the Dynamiters, Benson was noticeably dangerous, collecting four goals and eight points in his short stint.
In 58 career Junior A games split between the Calgary Canucks (AJHL) and Kindersley Klippers (SJHL), Benson tallied nine goals and 23 points.
With all that in the books before Friday night, Reid’s focus now lands on improving his team prior to the KIJHL trade deadline, which rolls in at 11:59 p.m. Sunday evening.
First on the list is adding a defenceman to the mix.
“We’re still working on a few things,” Reid said. “We’ll see what transpires by midnight Sunday.
“Our next move will most likely be a ‘D’ man unless we get a top-end forward that just comes out of nowhere for some reason, which, at that point, we’ll just outscore everybody.
“Like everybody on the planet earth, we need a ‘D’ man. You can never have too many quality ‘D’ men, so we’re going to look for one. If something turns up, then that’s great. If not, then that’s it, we’ll go forward with what we’ve got.”
While Reid continues to work the phones in what is one of the busiest times in junior hockey, his squad travels north to face the Golden Rockets (4-30-1-2) Friday night, before turning the bus around and heading south to take on the Grand Forks Border Bruins (16-17-0-3) Saturday.