The Nanaimo Buccaneers have spent the last two weeks practicing and working out, they are ready to see someone other than themselves on the ice.
Tonight they travel down to Victoria to take on the defending Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League champion Cougars for their first exhibition game at 7:15 p.m. While most of the decisions about personnel have been made, there is still an air of uncertainty of how the team is going to look, due to several players still at junior A and major junior hockey camps.
Still, head coach Brad Knight is excited to finally test drive this second-year team.
"It will be a lot of fun. .. it's why we do what we do, we like to play games," said Knight. "You can only practice and have training camp for so long and at some point you have to play somebody in a different jersey."
On paper, Knight does like the way the team is looking, but it is difficult to tell just how the roster is going to looking when he fills out the lineup card for their opening game on Sept. 5 against the Campbell River Storm. He is still waiting on the fates of several players at other higher-level junior camps.
"We haven't got every one back yet, that's the hard part about being below the B.C. Juniors," he said. "We're going to be fairly skilled, I think we'll be able to hold on to the puck for a while, and I think we'll have enough confidence to be able to control the style of play."
The biggest question mark for the Bucs right now is in net. If Riley Medves returns, they are set. But if he makes the Yorkton Terriers Saskatchewan Junior A Hockey League club, then a bunch of question marks.
The other three goalies still on the roster are Dade Beaudry-Young, Steven Ridley and Ryan Waldhaus, neither of whom have been a starter in the VIJHL before, though Waldhaus did get into two games with the Buccaneers last year.
"It's an absolute mess," said Knight. "Your starter in junior B is going to a junior A camp, and you want him to make it, but the repercussions with regards to how it looks after that; you're unfortunately skating a potential starter, plus two potential backups, depending on who the potential starter is. So we figure we've got four guys in the mix right now, so hopefully some exhibition games will settle that down."
Today is also a big day for Derian Hamilton, as he will be attempting to make a full time switch to forward after a couple of games last year on Garrett Dunlop's right wing.
It is an interesting move after Hamilton, 19, had an all-star year on the blue-line last season. However, with the Buccaneers strength being their defence last year, hopes are Hamilton can help fill out their forward lines.
"I've still got a lot of learning to do, so I'm getting a lot of tips from guys out there on how to play forward," said the six-footone, 157-pound Hamilton. Hamilton has played defence his entire life, and while it is not unheard of for a switch at this point in a career or even later, it is a difficult transition, nonetheless.
"I've never really been much of a goal scorer so I've got to practice shooting on the goalies in practice, because when your D you don't get to do a ton of that," he said.
The Buccaneers do not have an easy task ahead of them at the Archie Browning Arena in Victoria tonight. The Cougars dominated the VIJHL last season, finishing 45-1-2, before finishing with a silver medal at the Cyclone Cup provincial championship, losing 4-1 to the Richmond Sockeyes in the final.
Regardless, this will be Knight's first chance to see what he really has in some of his new guys like Dayton Boutillier, Kyle MacDonald, David Osborne and Chad Bell.
"With so many returning players coming back, it's just night to be apart of the 10-11 guys having their first crack at it," said Knight. "We're excited for them, which always creates enthusiasm and intern makes it fun for the opening game."
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