Leading up to the start of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2020-21 season, which starts Nov. 13, 2020, the league is publishing team previews.
These previews will highlight areas of focus for the respective organizations as well as players. Our last story featured the Chase Heat and now we head over to the Eddie Mountain Division and highlight the Columbia Valley Rockies.
The Columbia Valley Rockies look to keep building from last season's success. Peter Kalasz Photography
The Rockies advanced to the second round of the Teck Cup playoffs and played the Kimberley Dynamiters after they swept the Fernie Ghostriders. New head coach Briar McNaney says the Rockies built a positive, hard-working, and determined cultural foundation with a strong leadership core.
“Due to our team’s culture, goals, off-ice program, playoff success, and quality human beings in every part of our organization, we were able to return 10 players from the previous season’s roster,” says McNaney, who takes over the head coaching duties from Wade Dubielewicz, who moved into the general manager’s role in July. “In the offseason we planned and succeeded to build on our infrastructure by adding even more quality individuals, both on and off the ice.”
The Rockies coaching staff intend to have the players close to being prepared to regular season play as possible. They decided to reconsider a traditional “main camp” and only brought on veterans - players who were previously signed, and players who are in the mix to fight for the final spots of their opening day roster.
“We immediately started training as if we were in the middle of the regular season,” says McNaney, a Rockies alumni, who spent three seasons as the Rockies assistant coach. “We have seen positive signs so far from all of our players, and have been progressing well as a group.”
McNaney says there was a concern about keeping players motivated during a long training period, however, those concerns quickly disappeared with the confirmation of returning players.
“We have lots of our time dedicated towards training and team building, while our leadership core helps maintain competitiveness, positivity, and holds everyone to a standard in which we have in place and will to continue to build towards our goal of winning our organizations fourth KIJHL championship,” he says.
All of the Rockies’ returning players will be key in how they run their program on and off the ice. Each player is held in high regard.
Zack Dovichak - Last season’s “Most Dedicated Player” is an easy example of what to do both on and off the ice. Zack plays in every situation.
Gavin Fleck - A player held in high regard amongst his teammates, he keeps the mood light in the room and serious on the bench. Fleck provides a scoring touch and is a threat on the power play.
Fleck, pictured, above will be a key piece to the Rockies. Peter Kalasz Photography
Owen Hughes - One of the best puck moving defenders in recent years, Hughes brings a great attitude to the rink every day. He is used in every situation.
Kyle Lawrence - Shows up everyday with a smile on his face and is able to remain positive and driven in whatever adversity he faces. Lawrence sets a standard in the gym and in positivity in which few can match. He plays defence and forward, which gives the coaching staff the ability to utilize him in many situations.
Erik Lloyd - Impossible not to laugh when Lloyd is around. He goes out of his way to make people laugh. Lloyd brings a dynamic offensive skill set to the team that can be utilized in many different ways.
Brennan Nelson - Quiet by nature, Brennan defines the phrase “lead by example” on the ice while playing in all situations.
Gareth Nicholas - Has a natural leadership presence, work ethic, and positive energy which is infectious to the entire organization. Nicholas is used and excels in every situation.
Greg Parker - Shows great leadership skills and holds players accountable in a positive manner while holding himself to a high standard. Parker plays a key shutdown role along with the many other situations he is trusted with.
Colby Phillips - Is a joy to have in an organization as his energy is infectious. On the ice, Phillips is a high energy, highly physical player who is a high-end penalty killer.
Palmer Sinclair - Sinclair brings junior A experience and a scoring touch, positive attitude, and an energy to a dressing room that few players have. Sinclair will be used in many situations this year as he is a bit of a Swiss Army knife.
The Rockies will be a strong passing team with a quick transitional base.
“As a staff, we have identified this group as being an extremely fast skating team with good puck skills and passing abilities,” says McNaney. “While the speed and passing game may be the style of play we envision, dating back to last season, we have established ourselves as a group that has bought into playing a dedicated team game. We are looking to build on top of that identity in which we pride ourselves on as an organization.”