While every other team in the Prairie Junior Hockey League has played at least two regular-season games, the Prince Albert Icehawks finally kick off their fifth campaign tonight when they will host the Ochapowace Thunder at 7:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena.
The Icehawks, who are coming off a disappointing 2011-12 season where they won just 11 games and snuck into the post season on the final day to take on the Tri-Town Thunder in a best-of-five Survivor Series, will have plenty of new faces, including the man behind bench.
“I’m very happy and excited to see what we have on the plate,” says Kim Dryka, who is replacing Trevor Gunville as the head coach after team management opted to go in a new direction during the summer. “In Junior B you are not sure what you are going to get, but I’m pretty happy to have four solid lines.”
The Icehawks have 23 players on the roster entering tonight’s contest with 10 of those returning from last year’s team. Expected to lead the team offensively are Mitchell Corfmat, Eddie Gauthier and Lucas Seesequasis with goaltender Tyler Gordon likely to see the bulk of the action between the pipes.
Corfmat was the team’s leading scorer last year with 24 goals and 19 assists in 34 games while Gauthier, who is the only overage player in the line-up, had 11-28-39 totals in 32 games. Seesequasis had 25 points, including 14 goals, and more production is expected from him this year. Gordon played in 27 games and although his 4.95 goals-against-average might not be impressive, he faced just under 900 shots in posting a 9-12-0 record with one shutout.
“Defensively we should be pretty solid,” says Dryka. “We have four returning defensemen and eight in all so we should be able to hold our own.”
“Offensively, we have four solid lines we can roll every night,” added Dryka. “It should be exciting for the coaching staff and for the boys.”
The Thunder appear to be a good opponent to get the season started as they have lost all four games they have played so far and have managed to score just four goals in those games. They have also allowed 25 so the Icehawks have a great opportunity to get off on the right foot as last year the team struggled out of the gates and only had four wins by Christmas.
The wait won’t be nearly as long for the Icehawks to play their second game as they will be back in action on Sunday when they host the Regina Capitals at 2:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena.