Dust off the hockey sticks, sharpen the skates and break out a box of new pucks, as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season opens its 2019-20 campaign on several fronts Friday.
One of those games is at the NDCC Arena, in Nelson, where the Leafs play host to the Fernie Ghostriders in Kootenay Conference action with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
Hockey fans will see many familiar faces in the Green and White as Nelson returns no less than nine players to the lineup.
Back to lead the Leafs are defencemen Kaleb Comishen, Alex Erichuk and Andrew Gates, and forwards Keenan Crossman, Shawn Grabowsky, Brady Miller, David Sanchez, Reid Wilson and Jackson Zimmerman.
The Leafs also boast the return of goalie Curt Doyle, who played the past few seasons in Castlegar with the Rebels as well as rookies Reid Vulcano and Joe Davidson.
Vulcano played a few games as an affiliate for Nelson while Davidson impressed the coaching staff enough to be signed as a 16-year-old.
The Nelson Minor Hockey grad played last season with Kootenay Ice of the BC Major Midget League.
“Fans can expect to see a physical (team) with skill, with players that will not be outworked by any team,” Leaf GM Lance Morey told The Nelson Daily on the eve of the regular season.
Nelson’s coaching staff remains intact as head coach Mario DiBella heads up the group with assistants Adam DiBella, Blake Arcuri and goalie coach Connor Potter.
Nelson won its second straight Neil Murdoch Division title before being ousted in six games by Beaver Valley during the playoffs.
Leafs Still Waiting on Players
Nelson is waiting on a handful players from last year’s team — some Junior A camps and one injured — as well other prospects that could bolster the roster.
Forwards Cole Wyatt and Shawn Campbell along with defencemen Tulsen Fawcett and Kalem Hanlon all have indicated to the coaching staff that Nelson is on the radar should Junior A not pan out.
“These additions would be determined by need when and if they are released and become available,” Morey explained.
MacDonald lands in Nelson to complete Hunter Young deal
Nelson acquired defenceman Logan MacDonald from the Columbia Valley Rockies to complete an earlier move during the preseason that sent goalie Hunter Young to the Rockies.
In 40 games last season with Columbia Valley, MacDonald tallied five goals and ten assists for 15 points and 59 minutes in penalties.
Murdoch Division welcomes Doug Birks Teams
Cross-over and interconference games this season has the Doug Birks Division travelling to the Neil Murdoch and the newly named Bill Ohlhausen Division heading to the Eddie Mountain.
The Neil Murdoch is on the road to play the Bill Ohlhausen Division while the Doug Birks Division host Eddie Mountain teams.
The KIJHL said it’s been nearly four years since these teams have been to these arenas.