When Ryan Larsen was added to the KIJHL Top Prospects team late due to an injury/illness to another player, that gave the Kamloops Storm three players in the B.C. Hockey Conference Prospects Game, which started with Owen Aura and Jake Phillips-Watts.
Larsen ended up with a goal and two assists, including helping set up the winning goal in a 4-3 final against the PJHL Top Prospects. Storm GM Matt Kolle said firstly he was happy for his players and as an organization, it confirmed that they are meeting their goals and objectives.
“We sell it to people and take pride in the fact that we develop hockey players,” said Kolle, prior to the BCHC Prospects Game at the Sardis Sports Complex in Chilliwack. “We build hockey players and when it comes to an event like this, and we have three players, it confirms that we’re getting things right.”
Kolle hopes that with Aura, Phillips-Watts and Larsen representing the Storm in the BCHC Prospects game scouted by 15 BCHL teams, that it further supports that they have a program student-athletes will want to be part of if they want to be hockey players.
“It’s a hockey players’ playground,” says Kolle of Kamloops. “What we put into developing our players, we believe is at another level.”
Part of that includes having partnerships with three fitness facilities.
“We put a lot into what these players get for their development. I think the results show that what we put into it and what the players put into it has successful outcomes,” he said.
And the work they are doing is making it easier for the Storm to recruit players, especially considering where they were five years ago.
“We were begging players to play for us and were in tough financially. It has been a long haul,” Kolle says. “The program in place recruits for itself. People know the quality of the program and it’s become that much easier and the level of players that we do get, we will be in contention. Last year we had a really good squad and this year we really believe in our team and I wouldn’t think that we won’t be in the mix when the season comes to an end.”
This week’s KIJHL Notebook focuses on the KIJHL Top Prospects players and their experience over the two days at the BCHC Prospects Game in Chilliwack. As mentioned earlier, the KIJHL team defeated the PJHL 4-3. One common theme among the players is that they enjoyed getting to know each other and creating new friendships.
|Bill Ohlhausen Division
|Jonathan Ward of the Princeton Posse described the two days as “super exciting, and it was a great level of play.”
“It was a great experience in general. The whole thing was put together really well so it was fun,” he said. “Listening to the coaches, learn about the habits that you need, and how you have to play if you want to move up. I think the whole banquet was really good for that.”
Ward, who scored the winner assisted by Ryan Larsen, said he played really well.
“I played really well defensively and I still got offensive chances,” said Ward. “It was really exciting to play. I talked a lot and worked hard on the back check and had an active stick and took a lot of shots.”
|Austin Rampone of the Osoyoos Coyotes loved the experience and enjoyed every moment of it.
“I definitely learned a lot with the boys,” said Rampone, an affiliate player with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. “Definitely learning how fast all of us can adapt. We barely even know each other and found a way to find out who we are. I played pretty well. I think my game style is pretty simple and I played pretty solid. I liked how I finished my checks and kept my emotions in check.”
|Austin Seibel of the North Okanagan Knights was named the Player of the Game for the KIJHL Top Prospects. Seibel, an affiliate with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks, stopped 20 of 21 shots in 30:06 of action. What stood out to Seibel was that everyone was working their hardest to improve.
“There is always competition between each other and it just motivates me to keep working hard and to try to beat those guys in a friendly way,” said Seibel. “I felt good, confident, but there is still lots that I need to work on.”
|Kent Moors of the Summerland Steam captained the team and said it was a good experience, as he loves being at the rink.
Being the captain forced Moors to leave his comfort zone as he tried to be more vocal than he normally is.
“That is something that I will try to continue back with the Steam,” said Moors, who started to feel more comfortable being vocal near the end of the game.
The five-foot-10, 175-pound forward felt he had a shaky start and added it took “a period to adapt to the speed of the game.”
“Playing a different league, it’s different playing styles, but after that I felt I adapted pretty well,” he said. “I felt pretty comfortable, played strong defensively near the end and I was pretty physical. I won some pretty big faceoffs.”
|Aiden Morcom of the Kelowna Chiefs said the Prospects Game was great and “very intense and fast-paced.”
“I learned that it just comes down to hard work and effort. If you just put in the effort, things will come to you and get good results,” he said, “I did pretty good and was getting hard into the corners, using my speed as much as I could and really had a good defensive game. It was a great experience and really fun.”
Zachary Peitsch said showing up with a team of guys he didn’t really know was a “cool experience” for him, especially gelling with them. With the way the team was assembled, Peitsch said it really shows the talent in the league.
“The practices, and execution was really good and the speed was really fast,” he said. “The game was really intense, high-paced. It was really fun to play and it pushed everyone to be on top of their game and be quick with decision-making.”
The six-foot, 190-pound defenceman felt he played well, working hard while trying to make a name for himself.
“I think everyone played a good game out there,” said Peitsch, who was grateful to earn the opportunity to play. “I was playing physical, made some good hits, I was quick moving the puck up ice and getting the puck out of the zone.”
|Doug Birks Division
|Kurtis Kinoshita of the Revelstoke Grizzlies said the experience was pretty amazing.
“Having to gel with them pretty quickly for one game definitely was intense and really fun,” said the affiliate of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors, who earned an assist on Chad Bates’ goal. “Once we started talking, we started bonding really quickly and really became a team.”
Playing with Grand Forks Border Bruin Chad Bates and Rampone, Kinoshita liked the way he played, finding his teammates as they built chemistry. What Kinoshita learned from his time is to play hard, and find the soft areas.
Daniel Wittenberg said bonding with his new teammates over the two days was fun and it was a good experience representing the KIJHL. He learned the value of playing as a team, especially since building team chemistry can take more time.
“You always have to work hard, work in the corners,” he said. “I played a physical game, got the puck and kept possession. I think I was pretty good and physical, making some strong plays and generating a chance. Overall it was pretty good.”
|Damon Cunningham of the Sicamous Eagles enjoyed getting to know the players he faces on a regular basis, including the coaches.
“It was really competitive and just a good time,” said Cunningham, who played 29 minutes, 54 seconds and stopped 14 of 16 shots faced in the final half of the game. “I learned just to have fun, the game always seems to slow down and be easier when you have fun. That’s what we all did today and we got the result.”
Cunningham, an affiliate with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials, felt he played well and admitted it can be a bit tricky coming into the last half of a game, but he felt he handled it well.
“I communicated well with the guys when the defencemen were coming back, letting them know when there were guys on their back and when there wasn’t,” he said. “I helped out a little bit by playing the puck and making our defenceman’s jobs easier. The PJHL team forechecked pretty hard.”
|“It was really special, I had a great time, it was really fun to play in,” said Aura.
What he learned over the two days was to keep things simple with his play and moving pucks.
“That was a fast game and our league is fast too, so I played my game and do things right, keeping it simple sometimes is not always a bad thing,” said the six-foot, 200-pound Kamloops product. “I played pretty good. There were a few things that I would like to change, probably the first shift a bit better.
“The game flew by,” he continued. “I looked at the clock and there was 10 minutes left in the third. It didn’t feel like it should be. It was really good, fast-paced. There were a lot of good players out there.”
Larsen said it was a great experience and playing with other KIJHL players.
“I was pretty excited to be a part of it,” said Larsen, who leads the Storm with 25 points in 20 games.
The valuable aspects he took out was what the scouts had to say about what they look for in players.
“Not necessarily looking for the guys putting up all the points, but the complete 200-foot players that can win faceoffs and play good defensively, just as well offensively,” he said.
In assessing his performance, Larsen said “I played really well in the game, I had three points. Even defensively I played pretty well so it was great.”
Playing with Storm teammate Phillips-Watts, Larsen added that he supported the puck well.
“In my goal and one of my assists, the puck came out to me, so I was just putting myself in good spots to get the puck and support the player,” he said.
Phillips-Watts said it was an awesome experience for that game.
“The lights, the walkout, everything, the amount of scouts that were there, it was so much exposure making it feel like it was an awesome time. Honestly, it felt like a WHL game. It was unreal, and the food – we were treated like royalty.”
While there he just wanted to have fun and play as hard as he could and to him it was just another game, “but I got to play in front of lots of scouts.”
“I was a little bit nerve-wracking but it was tons of fun,” he said. “I played well and I think I represented the Storm in a good way. I worked hard and was strong defensively, not getting scored on.”
|Ethan Davey of the 100 Mile House Wranglers said the experience was positive, especially the exposure to the BCHL teams. An affiliate of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings, Davey said the information they received at the dinner banquet Friday night from BCHL coaches was valuable in terms of what they are looking for, especially what the players need to do to reach the next level.
Davey would like to reach the Junior A level and then advance to college hockey.
“I felt I played pretty well,” said Davey, a late addition due to an injury/illness. “I was in the right position most of the time. I used my body, being one of the bigger guys (6-3, 170-pounds) and in the D-zone I was able to get the pucks out of our zone.”
Tyler Smoluk said it was good exposure and felt it was organized well, and he was impressed by the name bars on the jerseys. Smoluk took value watching a recorded video interview with ASU Sun Devils head coach Greg Powers and the qualities that they like players to have that they recruit and what the players should strive to do.
“I thought the game was pretty good. It was very back and forth and good paced,” said Smoluk, also an affiliate with the Spruce Kings. “I played pretty well and had a good showing. I like finishing my hits and making good breakout passes.”
|Eddie Mountain Division
|Keenan Ingram of the Columbia Valley Rockies said it was great and an “honour to represent the KIJHL.”
Ingram, who scored to give the KIJHL a 2-1 lead, said he learned “it’s pretty easy to make friends and new teammates and everybody gets along and I think that was pretty cool.”
The five-foot-nine, 155-pound forward from Calgary felt he played pretty well and battled.
|Evan Tsadilas of the Golden Rockets said being there was a “great learning curve.”
“I learned lots of new things while I was here. Hard work and determination is one of the keys to making it far in anything you do, not just hockey,” said Tsadilas, who assisted on Ryan Larsen’s goal to even the game at 1-1. “I think I played well and could have capitalized on a few opportunities. I was moving my feet, working hard.”
|Max Chakrabarti of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats said the experience was fun as they did several team activities to build the group together. A takeaway for him is how hard they worked in practices, which is something he wants to take back to his team.
“I played pretty good. We had a slow start, then picked it up as the game went on,” he said. “We started to get confidence and going. I moved the puck well out of the D-zone, and had some nice offensive chances.”
|Neil Murdoch Division
|Chad Bates of the Grand Forks Border Bruins said the experience was great, especially seeing how well the team bonded.
“As we got to know each other, the dressing room got much lighter and we started having lots of fun,” he said. “It was a great experience to be part of.”
As an assistant captain, Bates learned to be more of a voice in the dressing room and having the ‘A’ on his jersey gave him more confidence in the room.
Bates said the game was faster than he expected, but added he felt he played great.
“It’s one of my better games this year,” said Bates, who scored to give the KIJHL a 3-1 lead. “I was really physical.”
Ben Edwards said what stood out to him is how quickly “people can become pretty good friends and teammates.”
“The work ethic that all the boys play with, it’s an eye-opener that everybody has to be on their top game,” he said. “I felt I did alright, I could have done a little better. I skated with the puck a bit more and took the body which is always fun.”
|Tyler Seminoff of the Nelson Leafs said the experience was really good, especially getting the exposure and playing against the PJHL. He learned from the KIJHL Prospects coaching staff of Head Coach Dave Hnatiuk (Grand Forks Border Bruins) and assistants Ty Valin (Fernie Ghostriders) and Mark Readman (Princeton Posse), and seeing different plays and how everyone plays a bit differently.
“The game was really fast paced and a bit more physical,” said Seminoff, the KIJHL team assistant captain, who is an affiliate with the BCHL’s Powell River Kings. “I felt I played pretty good. I learned a lot of things, and going back now, I can improve my game a bit more. Overall it was a great game to play in.”
Seminoff helped push his team by being vocal on the bench and he was honoured to be selected as part of the leadership group.
“I thought I fit that role pretty well. I tried to be as vocal as I could and motivate the team and get them going every shift.”