ESTEVAN - Thirty-nine young hockey players were on the ice at Affinity Place on Saturday and Sunday for the Estevan Steelhaus U18 AAA Bears’ annual training camp.
Returning players, newcomers and other hopefuls were on the ice for two days in an effort to impress the team’s coaches and scouts, and be part of the club for this season or in their plans for future years.
Coach Ryan Pilon said the team’s scouts and coaches were impressed with what they saw.
“It was a competitive camp overall,” he said.
The camp started with fitness testing and on-ice sessions on Friday. Two scrimmages occurred Saturday and the intersquad game was played Sunday.
Pilon noted they had just three spots available coming into fall camp. Nine spots of 20 roster spots are taken by returning players, another member of the team has previous U18 AAA experience, and seven first-year players had committed to play in Estevan.
One of the three walk-ons chosen for this year’s team was defenceman Colton Pushie, who is a local product in his third-year of U18 hockey.
“Those three put in their time at spring camp, and now at fall camp they impressed us again, and we’ve committed to them,” said Pilon.
Pushie played four games with the Bears last season.
This isn’t the first time Pilon has been able to watch the returning players. They were also part of the team’s annual spring camp earlier this season.
“Our returning guys were our best players at fall camp,” said Pilon, who didn’t divulge who stood out among the returning players.
“We were impressed with all of our returning guys,” he said later. “I had chatted with all of them before camp, knowing that they needed to come into camp prepared and take on a leadership role, and they did all of that.”
The newcomers include several players from the Prairie Hockey Academy’s U17 prep team, along with those with U18 AA experience and another making the jump from U15.
Most of the players will be going to junior camps in the next couple of weekends. They are bringing everybody back to start classes at the Estevan Comprehensive School on Sept. 6, and the Bears will have their fundraising golf tournament on Sept. 8.
Preseason games are slated for Sept. 10 and 11.
Having watched the players previously helped Pilon have an idea of what to expect this season.
Pilon said the staff is “very optimistic” for the upcoming season.
“Looking at the age of our group, we’ll be an older team in the league, which is a good thing, and it’s something on paper, right now, that we’re very happy with. Now it’s just up to us coaches and the players to get steered in the right direction moving forward,” said Pilon.