The rampant, 12-1 Revelstoke Grizzlies face a rare cross-border match versus the sole American team in the KIJHL on Friday, Nov. 2.
For the past two seasons, the KIJHL divided regular season play into separate Kootenay and Okanagan-Shuswap Division play during the regular season. Teams from each division only met in the playoff finals. This season the league rules have changed, and each team in the league plays one game versus each team in the opposite division.
On Nov. 2, the Star-Spangled Banner will be sung at the Forum ahead of a Grizzlies Junior B game for the first time in about four years when the 8-6-0-2 Braves lace up in Revelstoke.
The Grizzlies are hot this year. They have lost only one game in their 13 starts so far (12-1-0-0), earning them second place in the Okanagan-Shuswap Division with 24 points. (The Kelowna Chiefs are first with a 15-0-1-1, 32-point record with four games in hand.)
The Grizzlies 11-game, season-starting winning streak was broken on Oct. 26 when the Sicamous Eagles pulled off a win at the Revelstoke Forum. The Grizzlies dominated that game 56-29 on the shots board, but the Eagles managed to capitalize on a majority of their sparse chances in the third period, then sank an empty-netter for a 5-3 win.
Grizzlies coach Ryan Parent says the team is building on their 2017-18 season, when they won the Doug Birks Conference, Okanagan-Shuswap Division, but lost to the Kimberley Dynamiters in the playoff final series.
“I like our group. I love the work ethic that our young players are bringing to the table. We’ve really added to what we had last year,” Parent said. “I think our speed might be better than we had.”
In Junior B, success breeds success by attracting talented prospects to the roster; players want to play where they can win.
In an interview with the Mountaineer, Parent said that a strong program has attracted talent. “I think that most of that is due to the program we have in place for players.”
This season, Kaeden Patrick leads the team with 19 points, followed by Ethan Schaeffer (17 points) and Cody Flann (17 points).
Parent said he’s looking for leadership from all the players. “We’re always looking for leadership. You don’t need to wear a letter to lead your hockey team.”
Tommy Bodtker (14 points) returns again with the ‘C’ on his jersey. Parent singled out Boedker, Ryan Bedard and Josh Irvine as key leaders on the team this year. Irvine returned to the Grizzlies last weekend from the Junior A Melville Millionaires, and scored two goals versus in a 3-1 win over Sicamous on Oct. 28.
In the early season, the roster changes frequently as players move up and down from other divisions, such as Junior A.
Sitting in second place in their division, the Grizzlies have already distinguished themselves as contenders, but Parent sees stiff competition in Okanagan-Shuswap. “On our side, right now it looks to be Kelowna is a good test for everybody and 100 Mile is very strong.” He added that the Sicamous Eagles have a strong roster too.
The Grizzlies have played many of their early season games on the road, so it feels like the season is just getting started at the Revelstoke Forum.
“Every time you come down to the forum this year you’re getting an exciting game. Our team has a chance to win every night,” Parent said. “I’ve been happy with our guys. We’ll just see where it goes.”
The Friday, Nov. 2 game versus the Spokane Braves starts at 7 p.m. at the Revelstoke Forum.