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Estevan Bears host spring camp, announce player commitments

One hundred players attended this year's Bears' camp.
Carter Hirsch is among the commitments for the Estevan U18 AAA Bears for next season.

ESTEVAN - The Estevan Great North U18 AAA Bears had 100 players attend their annual spring camp on April 15 and 16.

"From the level of interest to the competition on the ice, we were really happy with how it turned out," said coach Ryan Pilon.

Scrimmages were held throughout the day on the first day and in the morning and early afternoon the second. Each team had three games. The annual intersquad game was held for the top 40 players in the afternoon of the 16th. 

"It was a busy couple of days, but it was important that we didn't get too, too big because we wanted to properly evaluate the camp and give good feedback for guys moving forward in their hockey careers as well," said Pilon.

The camp featured some players who were part of this year's Bears team, along with others who have played at the U18 AAA level. They were joined by some who hope to be first-year players next season and others who could be on the Bears further down the line.  

"It was good to see them match up against players that are already at our level," said Pilon.

The club wasn't sure how much interest there would be, since camp was on a Monday and Tuesday rather than a weekend, but this was the highest number of players in attendance since Pilon and the other members of the staff joined the Bears two years ago.

It also helped that the Bears made the playoffs for the first time in their brief history this past season.

"We're making Estevan a destination that players want to come to, and it's enticing for players to come to. Obviously now with the facility and the program that we're putting out, making the playoffs obviously helps things … and now we're just looking to build on that and take the next step."

Eight new players have already been signed out of camp, including forward Carter Hirsch, who spent the 2023-24 season with the Estevan Apex U18 AA Bruins. The 6'5" Hirsch had seven goals and 14 assists in 36 games.

"He's earned his spot on our team," said Pilon.

Also committing are forward Boston Schmidt, who had five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 37 games in his first season of U18 hockey spent last season with the Yorkton U18 AAA Maulers; fellow Yorkton forward Dylan Brass, who had four goals and five assists in 42 games; and goaltender Brady Carr, who has two years of experience at the U18 AAA level with the Battlefords Stars.

The other commitments are forwards Ryden Amberson of the Regina Rangers U18 AA program and William Nicholson (Regina U18 AA Vics); and defencemen Kayson Anderson (Prairie Storm U15 AA), and Jaxon Sedor (Rink Winnipeg), who hails from Yorkton.

"A lot of our returning players, even coming back [to camp] in the short amount of time since we've been done now, really have taken a step and shown what one year of experience can have," said Pilon.

There weren't a lot of surprises at camp, he said, as Pilon, the other staff members and the scouts followed these players throughout the season.