CARLYLE - The new head coach of the Carlyle Cougars senior hockey club is no stranger to the team or to hockey in the Carlyle area.
Clayton Geiger stepped into the role shortly before the 2022-23 Big Six Hockey League season began after the previous coach, Wade Robertson, died suddenly during the offseason.
“Wade was pretty dedicated to the team,” Geiger told the Observer. “In no way am I trying to fill his shoes or anything like that.”
The team thinks about Robertson every game.
Geiger said he played for the Cougars for about a dozen years, starting in 2006, but he didn’t play last season and there was a multi-year hiatus for the club in the past decade.
Coaching has definitely been a different experience, he said.
“I still get into the game a fair bit. I just have to sometimes remind myself that I’m not playing, I am coaching,” he said.
Geiger has lots of experience as a coach. When the Moose Mountain Wild U13 AA hockey team was around, he was a coach. He also coached the U15 AA program and guided a U18 team. For the past six years, he has been coaching his own children in the Carlyle Minor Hockey program.
He believes it helps that he knows most of the players on this year’s Cougars and they know him. Geiger said they would likely be one of the older teams in the league.
Carlyle opened the season by winning their first three games and outscoring their opponents 28-4.
“We’ve been converting on our chances and we’ve been getting really good goaltending as well,” he said.
They will face their toughest test of the young campaign on Nov. 25 when they host the Carnduff Red Devils at 8 p.m. at the Carlyle Sports Arena.
The Red Devils are the defending league champions and they opened the season with five consecutive victories.
“Carnduff and Redvers are definitely the favourites out of the gate, but I think we have a good enough squad to hang with anybody, and when it comes down to playoff time, in a three or a five-game series, we’ll be fine against anybody we face,” said Geiger.