An intersquad game last Saturday has the Kerry Park Islanders in good shape headed into the 2020-21 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season.
The game gave head coach Brandon Cox a chance to see his players in action, and to earn bragging rights against assistant coach Paul Pipke.
“I beat Paul,” Cox said, laughing. “That’s all that matters.”
That wasn’t all that mattered for the players, though, as some of them made big impressions on the staff.
Cowichan Valley product Parker Klippenstein, a 17-year who played last season with the Delta Hockey Academy, scored twice and earned himself a promotion.
“He’s been moved up in the lineup for this weekend,” Cox said. “We have big expectations for him.”
Veteran forward Louis Ferraro, acquired in the offseason from the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, for whom he had 13 points in 22 games last season, notched a hat trick in the intersquad game.
“He’s fit in well on a line with [Kirk] Whittaker and [Reid] Fitzpatrick,” the coach commented. “We’re expecting big things from him too.”
Another new acquisition, goaltender Bailey Monteith, earned the right to start in net when the Isles open the regular season this Friday. Monteith went 15-3 with a 1.95 goals-against average for the major midget Okanagan Rockets last season, and plaued 22 games for the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes the previous year.
“He’s a good young goalie out of major midget,” Cox said. “He’s playing well for us right now.”
The intersquad game was broadcast on HockeyTV, which will be the same plan for the regular-season games. The Isles will kick things off this weekend with a home-and-home series against the newly christened Saanich Predators, playing at George Pearkes Arena at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Kerry Park Arena at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Isles will play in a cohort with the Predators and the Westshore Wolves for the month of October. Cox expects both teams to be good this season. Saanich has added a couple of players from the Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, while Westshore has brought in some big new defencemen.
“Based on some of their returning players, both teams will be strong,” the coach said. “Probably stronger than last year.”
With a limit of 50 people in the arena at one time, including players and team staff, there isn’t a lot of room for fans, and only a handful of pre-sold tickets were made available to family members. That’s not the only change this year, as players have to dress in the warm area at the arena, and can’t shower before they leave.
“Obviously, it’s a lot to take on, but we’re doing it in stride, and we’re doing it with the kids’ best interests in mind,” Cox said. “It’s exciting to get back to playing.”