BCHL releases schedule for the 2020-21 exhibition season

BCHL ready for exhibition

The BC Hockey League has released its schedule for the 2020-21 exhibition season, leading up to the start of the regular season in early December.

As part of the league’s extended training camp, the schedule will feature competition between BCHL teams within a cohort of four.

“We believe it’s important to have our players playing meaningful games during this extended period before the start of our regular season, in order to stay engaged and game-ready leading into December,” said BCHL executive director Steven Cocker. “Our teams are working within the guidelines to provide our players with a high level of development on and off the ice.”

The first games will be played on Sept. 25, and will feature Penticton versus Salmon Arm and Vernon at West Kelowna.

Compared to past years the exhibition season will be expanded, with over 100 games scheduled across the league. Some teams will start play as early as Sep. 25, while others will delay until October and November, depending on their training camp model.

West Kelowna Warriors roster 3 players following training camp

Warriors add more depth

Three hopefuls turned enough heads during last week's training camp to be added to the West Kelowna Warriors roster.

The team announced Monday forwards Damon Jugnauth and Felix Trudeau and goaltender Jay Thomson will remain with the Warriors this season.

Jugnauth, 17, the older cousin of Warriors defenceman Tyson Jugnauth, spent the past two seasons with Edge prep in Calgary.

He scored 12 goals and 27 assists in 36 games.

“Damon provides a high level of compete, speed and has a great shot”, said Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson. “Damon was a clear stand out at our ID camp and I can’t wait to see what he does this season.”

Trudeau, also 17, spent last season with Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY., where he scored 30 goals and 35 assists in 55 games.

“I think Felix is going to be an exciting player for fans to watch this season. He plays with speed, has excellent hockey IQ and a natural ability to put the puck in the net," said Ferguson.

Thomson, 19, spent last season with Calgary in the AJHL.

“Jay is a goaltender who is technically very sound and has an exceptional work ethic.”, said Ferguson.

“Jay has come to West Kelowna looking for an opportunity in camp and has earned a spot through his play this past weekend.”

Colorado Avalanche draft choice Matthew Stienburg will suit up in West Kelowna this season

Warriors ink NHL prospect

With his university team shutting down its hockey  program this season due to COVID-19, centre Matthew Stienburg has opted to continue his hockey journey in West Kelowna.

The Warriors announced Friday evening Stienburg, the 63rd player taken in last year's NHL by the Colorado Avalanche, will suit up with the BCHL club this season.

He'll become the first player since David Pope in 2013 to play for the Warriors after being drafted by an NHL club.

The native of Halifax was scheduled to play at Cornell University this season, however, the Ivy League suspended the 2020-2021 hockey season.

“We are thrilled to have Matthew join the Warriors,” said head coach Simon Ferguson. 

“There was a reason why NHL teams were so high on Matthew, he plays fast, he plays mean and he is relentless on loose pucks."

While he's disappointed the Ivy League season was cancelled, the 6' 2", 195 pounder says he's looking forward to another season of junior hockey.

“I think we have another special group of guys here at Cornell” said Stienburg. 

“With that said I’m trying to take some positives out of this situation and make the most out of my opportunity here in West Kelowna. I came here to win and develop my game further and I think coach Ferguson and the management team here will give me a great opportunity to do that.”

The move to the Warriors will reunite Stienburg with childhood friend and fellow recruit Wyllum Deveaux.

In a corresponding move, the Warriors dealt 19-year-old centre Brendan Pigeon to the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the SJHL.


Vees announce their new leadership team ahead of the Friday night intrasquad game

First Vees game hits the ice

The Penticton Vees Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club has announced their leadership group ahead of the 2020/21 season, including the Peaches Cup intersquad game Friday evening which fans can watch online. 

The game will be available, free to watch on the HockeyTV website. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m.

“We look forward to having our players in a game environment and even more thrilled that we can broadcast for free on HockeyTV,” Fred Harbinson, the Vees president, general manager and head coach said in a press release. “This will allow for all of Vees Nation to get a first-hand look at this year’s talent.”

The team will be starting off the season with Fin Williams as the team captain. Williams will be joined by assistant captains Tyler Ho, Jackson Niedermayer and Ethan Martini in the leadership group. 

“We are fortunate to have been able to assemble a strong leadership group,” Harbinson said. 

The four on the leadership team have a combined 493 career regular season games in Junior hockey and 87 career playoff games across their Junior hockey careers.  

“Each will bring a different element that is necessary to have a positive impact on our team. I have complete confidence Fin will carry on the tradition of great Vees captains in the past.” 

Williams has a vast amount of experience, and is a BC Hockey League champion, joining the Spruce Kings for the team’s run during the 2019 playoffs. The 17-year old stands 6’0”, and weighs in at 190-pounds. The forward player got into 8 BCHL playoff games while suiting up for six Doyle Cup games and six games at the National Junior ‘A’ Championship, playing until the tournament’s final game. The North Vancouver, BC product produced 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 40 games during his 16-year-old campaign a season ago. 

“It’s been so exciting for me to be around everyone within the Vees organization over the last couple weeks,”Williams said in a press release. “I’ve been so impressed by all my new teammates on and off the ice so to be named captain for such a special group is something that is a huge honour. I’m excited to help represent a program with such a rich history.” 

Assistant captain Ho is 20 years old and returns for his second season in Penticton after being brought in by the Vees early in the 2019/20 campaign. The Surrey, BC born player suited up for 42 games during the regular season, potting 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points in that span while producing four goals and five points in five playoff games with the Vees a season ago.  

“I’m extremely honoured to be able to represent this team in being named an assistant captain,” Ho said in the press release. “Following in the footsteps of former captains and leaders of this team makes wearing a letter extremely prideful and I will do my best to help Fin and our leadership group guide this team on and off the ice.”   

Niedermayer is entering his third season in the Peach City at 19 years old, while enjoying a breakout offensive season in the 2019/20 run. The Penticton-born player registered 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points in 52 games played as well as providing two goals and six points in five playoff games. Niedermayer returns as the longest permanent Vee heading into the new season.  

“Going into my third season in Penticton, I’m excited to have the chance to build on the winning culture that has been established here and provide leadership with my experience,” Niedermayer stated in the press release. “We have a lot of different voices in the dressing room and a group that is very strong. I’m happy to work alongside Fin, Tyler and Ethan as an assistant captain this season.” 

Last on the leadership docket is Martini, who enters his second season with the team after his acquisition during the offseason and made immediate dividends on the ice and in the dressing room. The 20 year old Trail, BC player scored a goal and five assists for six points in 40 games played during the season and brings over 200 games of Junior hockey experience with him into the 2020/21 season.  

“I’m really looking forward to adding my experience into our leadership group this season,” Martini said in the press release. “We had a strong group of leaders a season ago and with all of our returning core from last season, including myself, we will look to build off of that and make sure that everyone in the dressing room has a voice, no matter if they wear a letter or not.” 

Fans will get their first look at new team line up in intrasquad action Friday.

BC Hockey League vows to play this season with, or without fans

BCHL unveils Plan B

The BC Hockey League says there will be a 2020-2021 hockey season, whether fans are allowed to watch, or not.

In a news release Friday, chairman of the board Graham Fraser stated governors voted unanimously this week to approve a "Plan B" return to play scenario.

Under this scenario, if fans are not allowed to return to arenas by the planned restart in December, players and their parents will be required to pay a fee to play.

Teams would also lean on sponsorships and government funding support to get through the season.

The current plan is to return to play at the beginning of December with 25 per cent capacity inside each arena.

“Our main objective remains to play a season, no matter what, but our original goal of starting in December with 25 per cent capacity in our buildings is in jeopardy,” said Fraser.

“This new scenario allows us to have a fall-back plan if that does not occur. Even if we end up going with the alternative, we may have the opportunity to introduce fans into the stands later in the season and into the playoffs, which would, in turn, reduce costs for the players and their families.” 

Should the BCHL be forced to resort to Plan B, they would do so with a reduced schedule.

“The fact that we are prepared to play a season without fans does not mean we no longer require financial support from the government,” said BCHL commissioner Chris Hebb.

“Player fees will give our teams the ability to survive, but our owners are preparing to take a financial hit to ensure we get to play regular-season games in 2020-21. If anything, this only increases our need for corporate and government support."

Hebb added asking parents to pay an additional fee for their kids to play is strictly COVID-19 related, and will be scrapped once the league returns to business as usual.

League officials say teams will do their best to reduce fees players will be required to pay through other funding and sponsorships.

Individual teams will determine how much those fees are.

Despite being three months away from playing, teams around the league are in the midst of training camps.

Some teams have already announced exhibition tournaments, including the Island Division, which will hold a division-wide tournament beginning early next month.

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