The Yorkton Terriers start the defense of their 2012-13 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship as they hold their fall camp this weekend.
Head coach Trent Cassan said the camp will take on a format similar to past years, with limited players allowing for hard-working sessions over two days.
“Until Saturday you never know the exact numbers,” said Cassan, adding numbers even fluctuate through camp depending on players attending Western Hockey League (WHL) try-outs. That all said he anticipates 60-70 players, “which allows us to have four teams,” ideal for try-out sessions.
Cassan said that will include “a number that are younger kids coming to get a good experience.”
The Terriers enter camp with a lot of experience this fall, starting with five players who played on the blueline last season, with a sixth having played Junior ‘B’ and practiced with the team.
“We certainly have a good group of defenceman coming back,” he said. “… The group of defence has a lot of experience.”
Devon McMullen leads the rearguards, entering his fourth year, with a ton of regular season and playoff games under his belt.
McMullen is also the team Captain, and Cassan said he leads the return of the Terrier’s entire Captain crew, meaning continued leadership.
With the veterans on the team Cassan said he will be focused on making sure complacency does not set in after last season’s success.
“It was a great year … but that was last season” he said. “Success in the past doesn’t mean you can just show up opening night and good things are going to happen.”
He added even with veterans their will be some openings because ideally a team has some young players to provide long term stability.
One place there will be an opening is in goal where Dawson McAuley, who anchored the Terriers playoff run in the spring will be trying out with the WHL Regina Pats.
“We know Dawson is going to get a good opportunity to make the Pats,” said Cassan. “We hope he continues on the success he had, and he will make the jump to Junior ‘A’.”
The Terriers do return Cale Thomson in net.
“Cale had a really strong season,” said Cassan. “He had a tough couple of games, which most goaltenders have, and then Dawson sort of took charge.”
Cassan said while Thomson was a good teammate when McAuley was on his run, “he’s competitive too.” The Terrier coach said he expects that competitive nature will have Thomson focused for camp.
Up front the Terriers have a number of returnees, and some of those will have to step up as the top-three scorers from last season, Jeremy Johnson, Patrick Martens and Nathan Murray, have graduated.
“That’s a lot of goals out of the line-up,” admitted Cassan.
Cassan said some of his returning players will need to put a a few more pucks in the net to make up for it.
And then some new faces will need to contribute too.
“We’re confident we have some good young players coming in,” he said, and he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the new faces.
The Terriers also have a bit less room to add a veteran presence from outside as they have nine 20-year-olds from last season eligible to return and league rules allow for only eight.
The plan for camp includes game sessions Saturday and Sunday, then trimming down for the black and orange game scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday.
After that Cassan said he’ll trim the list to 32-33 players for the preseason.