Isles open VIJHL season this week

Ready or not, the Kerry Park Islanders will begin the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season on Wednesday.

The Isles still have several players away at junior A camps – some of which they won’t be getting back – but the season opens Wednesday regardless, so they’ll have to take the plunge.

The Isles have seen a couple of players they hoped to have on their rosters released from Western Hockey League camps, but before they could join Kerry Park, they were redirected to B.C. Hockey League camps.

Nick White, who was acquired by the Isles from the Nanaimo Buccaneers over the summer, tried out for the Tri-City Americans, and was the only unsigned player to make it through camp to the team’s first exhibition game, but he was ultimately released. He is now in junior A camp with the Victoria Grizzlies.

Ryan Hogg, signed by Kerry Park out of the midget ranks, attended the Victoria Royals’ rookie camp before heading to the Cowichan Valley Capitals’ camp, where he might end up sticking. "We probably won’t get him back, if at all, until after the exhibition season," Islanders owner Mark Osmond said.

Defenceman Jordan Coyne, who has played the last two seasons with the Isles, was also at the Caps’ camp, but was released earlier this week.

Beyond those players, the Isles have a host of local products hoping to make the cut. And if they don’t, they will give the team a big stable of affiliate players to draw from.

"We’ve got lots of young Cowichan Valley players coming in from last year," Osmond said.

After winning their first exhibition game 4-3 over the Westshore Wolves on Aug. 22, the Isles lost 4-1 to the Victoria Cougars last Thursday.

The game wasn’t as one-sided as the score would make it appear, according to Osmond, as the Cougars went all-out to win the exhibition.

"We played all our prospects, and they didn’t; they played seven 20-year-olds," he said. "We were beating them halfway through the game, but then they started playing their 20-year-olds every second shift."

When the Isles get their full lineup in action, it will be a different story.

"When we have who we had sitting in the stands on the ice, we’ll be right with them," Osmond said.

After the season opener at Westshore on Wednesday, the Isles will visit the Comox Valley Glacier Kings on Saturday and the Nanaimo Buccaneers next Thursday before finally making their home opener against the Peninsula Panthers on Saturday, Sept. 13.

"Hopefully we’ll get off to a good start," Osmond said. "I think there will be a lot of parity this year. I don’t think Victoria will be such a dominant force."