The loss of a team, shorter season and fewer playoff spots in the CIHL this season is going to make the play much more competitive among the seven teams remaining.
That’s the word from Ray Hallock, Terrace River Kings team manager.
The schedule has dropped from 18 games last year to 16 this year and only four playoff spots to battle for in the regular season.
Houston’s Luckies won’t be playing this season but the team’s previous players might want to still play and try out for the Smithers Steelheads, he said. And that would give the Steelheads more talent to choose from, he added.
“Smithers will be tough, they’re always tough,” said Hallock about Terrace’s biggest competition for the season.
The River Kings won’t be travelling as much thanks to some careful organization of the schedule, which also explains why they play some teams four times this season and others only once or twice.
Each team only travels on one long road trip – for Terrace, that’s to Williams Lake and Lac La Hache to play both teams on the same weekend.
Quesnel comes here to play, saving the River Kings a trip there for their only matchup and Terrace travels to its closer opponents, Kitimat, Smithers and Prince Rupert, twice each and welcomes them here for two games each.
Hallock says he hopes with the tougher competition this year that the games don’t degenerate into players deciding to hurt the other team’s players to get them out of the game.
But head coach Rob Findlay doubts that will happen because the team has been cleaning up its game in the last few years and finished the regular season last year with the second lowest number of penalty minutes in the league and the fewest penalties in the Coy Cup. Findlay says he’s seeing some good talent already in the tryouts, which have been going on Tuesdays and Thursdays since Aug. 19. There’s three or four spots to fill.
“It’s always tough to cut people, a lot want to play,” said Findlay. “You can see which guys are going to make it.”
After tomorrow’s tryout, Sept. 11, the coaches will be deciding on who to cut, he added. Hallock said he’s seen a lot of new faces among the prospective new players.
“The intent is not to build the team but to build onto last year’s team,” he said.
“Fans can expect excellent hockey,” he added about what they can expect this season.
Terrace travels to Kitimat for an exhibition game against the Ice Demons at Tamitik Sept. 20. The River Kings kick off their season with an away game against the Ice Demons Oct. 3 and then host the Smithers Steelheads Oct. 4.