The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season is about to start, and the Yorkton Terriers began their preparation in earnest on the weekend holding their fall training camp.
Head coach Trent Cassan, who begins his first full season behind the bench as the top man, said the camp progressed pretty much as they had hoped, starting with having just more than 80 players at the try-outs. He noted the player number was "kind of a target" because it set up basically four teams allowing for full scrimmage sessions.
Cassan said the Terriers also looked for a range of ages in camp, covering 20-year-old veterans and hopefuls, down to 15-year-old prospects, including Kailum Gervais who played in the final black and orange scrimmage Sunday evening.
"He (Gervais) didn't look like a 1995 out there," said the Terrier coach. "He showed no fear out there against guys four or five years older."
The Terriers start the year with an established starting netminder in Devin Peters, and Warren Shymko is in camp after ending last season as the back-up.
That said the Terriers had several goaltenders in camp.
"We have a couple of younger kids pushing Warren," said Cassan.
Cassan said the team will keep several netminders on hand through what is a busy preseason.
"We do have five preseason games in basically a seven day span," he said. "It all happens pretty quickly."While saying it was too early to pick a team strength, Cassan said with Peters back netminding should be solid.
"With the experience Devin has he should be one of the top goaltenders in the league this year," said Cassan, adding the team is likely to "rely on him."
On the blueline five players with Terrier experience were in camp, and a couple of new faces caught attention.
Cassan said Sam Rockwell, a 19-year-old out of B.C., "stepped up," in camp, including showing "an edge" in a couple of fights.
Up front Kyle McLeod drew mention from Cassan.
"He was a very high player in Manitoba Triple 'A' (Midget)," he said. "He has good offensive instincts. He sees the ice well."
Zak Majkowski from B.C., Sam Prpich from Okotoks, AB., and Gary Rai, a 20-year-old were mentioned by Cassan as well.
Cassan said he expects to keep up to 30 players going through much of the preseason. He said preseason games are a chance to evaluate different things than what they see in camp sessions.
"We want to see them against competition, not just as individual, but how they are as teammates," he said.
" We preached that in our good playoff run; being good teammates."
As for his vets, Cassan said he was pleased with what he saw.
"All the veterans came back in really good shape," he said.
The Terrier coach said Riley Patterson has come back stronger and looks ready to contribute more.Rylan McDonell scored goals through camp, and will be looked at as a leader.
And Nathan Murray, at 18, is "a big strong kid," who should assume a bigger role with the team too, offered Cassan.
As for the exact look of the Terriers when the regular season starts Sept. 18, Cassan said it's too early to tell with camp just ended, noting the season is "still two weeks away."
It is not even clear what players may be available since several players on the Terrier list are attending Western Hockey League camps including veterans from last season such as Austin Bourhis, Clarke Breitkreuz and John Neibrandt.
While those players can't be counted on, some may filter back to the Terriers as WHL teams progress through their preseason.
The Terriers play preseason games in Waywayseecappo Thursday, Estevan Friday, and back at the Gallagher Centre against Battleford at 3 p.m. this Sunday, before heading back to Waywayseecappo Monday.