It was not a banner season for the Sicamous Eagles, but there were still positive takeaways for team general manager Wayne March.
The Junior B Eagles’ season wrapped up with a Feb. 14 road trip to 100 Mile House where the team lost 8-2 to the 100 Mile House Wranglers. Despite a playoff position being out of reach, March said the team still gave it their all, right up to the very end.
“Sure we were outgunned,” said March. “In the end there, we were playing three forwards back on (defence) because of injuries and suspensions. Sometimes four forwards on defence. Well, forwards don’t play defence that well. But these kids went in there and did the best job they could.”
Most impressive for March was the team’s determination to do better next season.
“They all came back on the bus and all you could hear was, ‘We’re coming back next year and we’ll beat these guys!’ It was a total positive,” said March.
March said he knew it was going to be a tough season for the relatively young team.
“We had 17 17-year-olds and two 16-year- olds and a couple of returning vets which, down the road, it didn’t work out and we made some trades and everything else,” March explained. “So we knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t think it was going to be as tough as it was.”
The up side, said March, is that nine or 10 of this season’s core players have said they want to wear the Eagles jersey again next year.
“It will make us a strong team for next season,” said March, adding recruitment for next season is already underway. “We’re not going just to fill numbers. We’re going after kids that can really play and… we’re not going to be as young a team as we were this season.”
Along with a bench of largely rookie Junior B players, it was also Rob Fitzpatrick’s first season as head coach. March said he and the Eagles’ board of directors have 100 per cent confidence in Fitzpatrick taking the team into the 2018/19 season.
The one thing March isn’t looking forward to is KIJHL Junior B players having to wear full face protection next season, as mandated by BC Hockey.
“We have no choice. It’s like a Communist government,” said March. “These kids wear cages right up to the end of midget. They look forward to coming up and wearing a half-shield. Junior B are the only ones in B.C. getting it. Junior A, they’re not touching them. Alberta is still at half-shields, Saskatchewan still is… We were dictated to.”
KIJHL teams weren’t consulted about players having to wear cages. League president Bill Ohlhausen said the mandate had been in the works for months, and that it would cut down on insurance costs and facial injuries.