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Coyotes reduce roster to 30 players after very busy training camp opening weekend
The Osoyoos Coyotes are thrilled to welcome back two key veterans who played huge roles in bringing the team to within one game of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) finals last year, but they’re very disappointed to be losing their projected No. 1 goaltender Jesse Gordichuk, who signed with Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League over the weekend.
The good news is last year’s leading scorer and MVP Colin Chmelka and veteran winger Troy Maclise are two of 10 returning players from last year’s team to return to the Coyotes for the 2013-14 season, said head coach and general manager Ken Law, who put his players through the paces during the opening of training camp over the Labour Day long weekend.
“We didn’t expect to get Colin or Troy back with us this year, so that’s a huge bonus,” said Law. “They’re going to make a huge difference for us this year.”
Law said that good news was offset by the bad news that Gordichuk had accepted the offer to play for Fort McMurray.
Gordichuk played magnificently in last year’s playoffs, as did Chmelka and Maclise, as the Coyotes came within one game of reaching the KIJHL finals.
After trailing the North Okanagan Knights 3-1 in the best-of-seven league semi-finals, the Coyotes rallied and won two-consecutive games to force a seventh-and-deciding contest, before falling to the Knights, who lost in the league finals to the Castlegar Rebels.
“I’m trying to make a deal right now to try and land a No. 1 goalie,” said Law, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “That’s obviously a key position and it’s a priority to try and get a goaltender who has some experience at this level and can come in and take over the No. 1 job.”
A total of 57 players attended training camp, which started last Thursday at the Sun Bowl Arena.
Following Sunday’s exhibition opener at home against Grand Forks – which the Coyotes won 6-5 with a rookie-laden lineup – Law cut the numbers to 30.
With three more exhibition games set for Wednesday night in Grand Forks followed by two games against Summerland – Saturday evening at home and Sunday on the road – Law hopes to have his starting lineup in place by the end of this coming weekend.
The Coyotes will likely start the regular season, which kicks off a week from Friday on home ice against Summerland, with 23 players as a couple of players are recovering from long-term injuries, said Law.
Getting Chmelka and Maclise back into the fold was a very pleasant surprise, he said.
“Unless some other team from a higher level calls them up, I expect both guys to be with us for the entire year and that’s huge for us because they’re both proven scorers,” said Law. “It was very nice to see both of those guys back at training camp because I wasn’t expecting to have either guy back this year.”
Law said he expects his team to be one of the better skating teams in the league this season.
“They’ve taken a lot of the toughness out of this league with a real clampdown on fighting and major penalties,” he said. “That means most teams are going to have to rely more on skill and speed. I expect us to be a very quick team.”
The team is still looking for two or three billet families to take in players for the upcoming season, said Law.
Anyone who might be interested in becoming a billet is asked to contact team owner Randy Bedard at 250-495-8079.
Game time for Saturday’s exhibition game against Summerland is 7:35 p.m.