Everyone is a contender in fall in junior hockey.
And this year’s Grand Forks Border Bruins junior B team looks to be an improved squad from last year’s 8-40-1-3 (20 points).
Although the program has dwelt near the bottom of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) standings over the last few years, with head coach and general manager Nick Deschenes returning, a few key signings and a handful of returning players things are looking up for the squad.
Last year Deschenes assumed the reins barely one month before the season began, inheriting a team that recorded only one win the year before, and sported only one returning player.
But with a full summer to recruit and evaluate players, Deschenes felt confident coming into his second season.
The club has announced the signing of four players that look to all be able to step in and help out right away. Signing with the club are:
• Corey Munro, a graduate of the Burnaby Winter Club Midget A1 team who tallied 12 goals and 30 points in 44 games last season;
• Mitchell Pearson, who was selected MVP for his Fort St. James Midget team after tallying 45 goals and 77 points in 34 games;
• Lincoln Lane, a six-foot-tall player from the Cloverdale Midget A1 team who amassed 42 goals and 93 points in 98 games over the past two seasons;
• and Christina Lake resident John Skeet, who played for the Kootenay Ice major midget team for the last two years.
“Munro is a committed young man who will bring a physical presence and energy to our team,” said Deschenes. “He is physically mature to handle the Junior B game.”
Lane received strong praise from former coach Mike Bose who said, “he’s a solid young player with good speed, a nice set of hands and defensive capabilities. He is a strong player with a big presence, focus and level of commitment.”
Deschenes said he expected Lane to make an impact as a first year player.
“He is the complete package as a player and is committed to furthering his career,” said Deschenes. “Lincoln played several exhibition games with Princeton Posse so he is familiar with the KIJHL, which is an asset.”
Skeet, a defenceman, is looking forward to donning the black and gold and putting more wins on the board.
“I know there hasn’t been much success in the last couple of years, but with a new season, a new batch of players, and a strong coaching staff, things are looking up,” he said.
Deschenes said the club is fortunate to be able to sign a local player with the ability to step in and make an impact.
“He has been very committed in the off season and I think he will make an impact at the Junior B level,” he said.
“It is always a small victory for a program such as ours when we attract local talent. John was an (affiliated player) for us last season and has the ability to play both forward and defence.”
Back in the den
Deschenes said he’s also had commitments from a number of players from last year who plan on returning this season. That list includes Bruins leading scorer Jackson Purvis—who scored 50 points in 44 games last year—and team captain Nathan Cory.
“It’s nice having players I’ve been able to work with for a year and understand our systems and our expectations,” Deschenes said. “It makes it a lot easier for them and myself and to introduce new players into that environment.”
Deschenes said it was a challenge coming in late last season but the coaches were able to focus on player development on a very young team playing in a tough division like the Neil Murdoch.
“I would have loved for the kids to have more wins,” he said.
“But when you take the second half of the season and compare it to the first, there’s a dramatic improvement. We ended on a very positive note and we’re going to take that moving forward into next season.”
An early start
The Bruins wrapped up their first ever boot camp on Friday, Aug. 16 with a river float and a road hockey game on Market Avenue as part of ‘Back to the Wild West Day.’
“Everyone competed hard,” said Deschenes. “It was a good mix of hard work and a little bit of fun. We really got to showcase the area with an observation peak climb and the river float down the Kettle.”
The camp had older players helping out the younger kids, effectively bringing along some of the players that may aspire to play Junior B hockey at some point, he said.
Coming up next for the team is a development camp for minor hockey players from Aug. 26-29 at the Grand Forks Arena.