Monday, June 8, 2009

Rebels Dominate Timberwolves Roster


The Williams Lake Timberwolves recently announced their initial roster of commitments for their return to the BCHL in 2009-10. The first thing that stands out to me on that list is the strong representation for the KIJHL's Castlegar Rebels. Four players from the Rebels will be part of the new Williams Lake team and three of them are actually from Castlegar. Locals Anthony DeLong, Darren Tarasoff and Keagan Little will join Kelowna native Erik Wentzel as former Rebels making the leap to the BCHL for next season.

What's the connection? Apparently former Rebels assistant coach and assistant GM Jesse Dorrans has connections with the organization and got someone to come down and watch the team. That turned into invites to spring camp and now roster spots for a big part of the KIJHL team's core. They had a strong season as a group that included their first recent playoff series win over Beaver Valley. The success earned Coach and GM Brent Heaven a contract extension, but he's sure going to have a lot of work to do now that most of his top players are gone due to age limits or BCHL commitments.

I talked to DeLong about his move up north recently on Mountain FM's Overtime...

Anthony De Long on Mountain FM's Overtime

Click here to download

While DeLong seems to be the prize of the group due to his performance as a KIJHL rookie, age and potential; Keagan Little might end up being the biggest contributor next season. Smokies fans might be familiar with Little because he was an AP for Trail in the 2007-08 season. I'm not sure any of us want to remember how decimated by injury that Trail team was, but Little played hard and didn't look out of place. Even when he suited up in the playoffs. Little might have made the leap to the BCHL much sooner if not for what has been a harsh battle with injuries. There was a time when he thought his junior hockey career might be over. Now Little is getting a rare chance to start his Junior A career as a 20 year old. He does it a year after being one of the top scorers in the KIJHL and his team's offensive catalyst.

Would all of the players on that initial roster get a chance to play in the BCHL if Williams Lake wasn't starting from scratch? That's hard to say. I know there has been some pretty harsh criticism of the roster in some circles, but sometimes the players who have been counted out will surprise you. Nobody is expecting much from them and that might play right into their hands. I'm certainly hoping to see big things from the former Rebels who now get a chance to ply their trade in the best Junior A league in Canada.

They certainly won't be the only local KIJHL players who get a shot at the BCHL next season. For example, former Smokes AP and Nelson Leaf Dylan Walchuk will be skating for Vernon next year. He and Garrett Beckwith (who will play for Trail) won't be the only former Leafs in the Interior Conference. Just wait and see! There will also be some representation from Grand Forks and Beaver Valley. It's only a matter of time before we find out where they're all headed.


...Congratulations to former Westside Coach Mark Howell on his new job as the Head Coach for the University of Calgary. Howell's Warriors knocked Trail out of the first round in three games this past season so I know Smokies fans aren't sorry to see him go! He was always very easy for me to deal with and professional so I wish him the best of luck in his new position. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the Warriors now that they are turning over so much of their roster (including key players Schultz, Pritz, Gehon, Gagne...) and now they have to find a new bench boss. It could put Westside behind the 8-ball.

...Check out Ron Gallo's Spruce Kings blog for more information on the BCHL league meetings. Ron has interviews up that recap each day of the important weekend. Of course they can only reveal so much at this point. The key information? As we've heard for some time now we will be going back to a full interlock schedule. We'll see every BCHL team in Trail and visit them all as well. That's great news for fans, but will probably add to the harsh travel costs a team like the Smokies endures. I think it's the right move. It also appears the BCHL will adopt the new NHL rule for power play face offs. Every man advantage will start in the penalized team's zone no matter where the puck is touched. I like the rule and I generally think the league should do what it can to emulate the way the game is played at the highest level. Of course that doesn't mean they should follow the NHL on everything, but I would like to see the shoot out. It seems strange that our players won't be using a skill that they'll require in basically every other league.

...Mountain FM's Overtime is back with brand new shows this week after I had a short holiday. I'm hoping to get in touch with the Smokies for their take in the league meeting and anything else that might be on the horizon. Stay tuned to Mountain FM for all the latest Smokies news. As soon as anything happens with the Smokies we've got in for you in our sportscasts and on Overtime. We're your home of the Smoke Eaters even in the off season.

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