With the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2020-21 season still just a few days old, the league is publishing team previews.
First up is the Osoyoos Coyotes.
The Coyotes finished 2019-20 last overall in the KIJHL’s regular season standings with nine wins. Their focus heading into the 2020-21 season is the on-ice play. Head coach Carter Rigby felt that last year’s team didn’t have the skill level it took to be competitive at the junior level. They have four returning players.
“It’s nice that I can bring guys in that I want in the program,” says Rigby.
Some key deals Rigby made to strengthen his roster included grabbing Josh Bourchier from the Summerland Steam. He also picked up Tyson Soobotin from the Castlegar Rebels. Most of it was recruiting. He also picked up Jordan Berschiminsky, a 20-year-old goalie.
“I predict him to be right up there with Curt Doyle in competitiveness,” says Rigby.
The Coyotes held their main camp the first week of November, starting later than other teams. That gave them more time to find billet homes, which was an issue. They will use the next two weeks to get into game shape. They will also learn the systems.
“The nice thing is we haven’t been around for two months just practising our skills work. We are thrown into the fire right away,” says Rigby.
“We can ramp up our game play and get everyone going right off the bat. You are not screwing around with too many numbers. This is our group we are going to have. We are bringing in more guys next week. I’m really happy with that.”
Crae Dawson and Levi Carter both played for the South Zone in the midget level. Dawson is from Osoyoos and Carter is from just outside Keremeos. “It’s nice to bring in kids like that that are familiar with the program. They are two very highly skilled players. Defensively responsible. I put them with any rookies in the league. Those two kids work their bag off. They are working to push the older guys,” says Rigby.
Logan Cunningham was selected in the WHL bantam draft in the third round by Spokane. “He has already played a WHL game. He’s 16 years old, but he’s arguably could challenge for a top spot as top defenceman in the league if he really wanted to. He’s playing with a 20-year-old that I brought in from junior A. He carries himself like a young man. He’s very humble. I expect him to do great things at our level,” says Rigby.
Ryan Bester “is a quick player, brings a lot of energy. He’s a depth guy. Has a lot of skill up front,” says the coach.
Seth Kriese is recovering from shoulder surgery. “Local kid. Fourth year in league. Can play forward and defence. When he plays defence, he can quarterback the power play and use his feet to get out of trouble. Has a lot of skill. Up front, he adds skill and depth to our forward lineup too,” says Rigby.
Jack Henderson is coming back from the Merritt Centennials. “It’s always nice to have guys who should be a junior A, but unfortunately things just didn’t work out, to get him back. I expect Jack to be a point-per-game guy,” Rigby says.
The KIJHL opened its 54th season last weekend as has named its first set of weekly stars.
First star: Penticton product Matthew Byrne of the Nelson Leafs helped lead the club to a 2-0 start with seven points. In a 10-3 win over the Castlegar Rebels, Byrne collected five assists, then added two goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the Coyotes.
Second star: Osoyoos Coyotes netminder blocked 49 shots in a 4-1 win over the Grand Forks Border Bruins, then stopped 44 the next night in a 4-3 loss to the Leafs.
Third star: Jacob Biensch of the Chase Heat scored a goal and finished with five points in two games. In a 7-5 win over the North Okanagan Knights, Biensch scored the winner on the power-play.