The Yorkton Harvest are back on the ice.
Under new head coach Dan Cross, the Harvest played a pair of pre-season games over the weekend against the Regina Pat Canadians.
Following topping the Pat Canadians 2-1 on Sept. 7 in the Queen City, the Harvest stayed out of the losing column the following night at the Gallagher Centre by tying Regina 3-3.
It seemed the Harvest were going to go into the first intermission with a comfortable 3-1 lead thanks to a Corwin Stevely hat trick, but Arthur Miller scored a goal with four seconds left in the first to put the Pat Canadians within one.
“You never want to let a goal go in with that little time left,” says Cross. “But you have to expect mistakes in pre-season.”
Miller went onto pot his second on the night to close out the game’s scoring.
Cross believes his club had their share of sloppy plays during the two exhibition games, but he feels it is inevitable to go through them in the early stages of the year.
“It’s what you expect from exhibition games,” says the head coach. “It’s just the effort we are looking for and I thought we had a good effort in both games.”
The pre-season games were a rematch of the Harvest’s first-round playoff series last season. The series stung deep for Yorkton because they lost to Regina in the fifth and final game despite outplaying them for the most part. The main reason why the Harvest fell short was the outstanding play of Pat Canadians puck-stopper Logan Flodell. He stood on his head in the series, stopping 34 of 35 shots in the deciding game.
Cross was happy he didn’t see Flodell in net during the pre-season games because he’s still playing for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, but he expects to see him back in the SMAAAHL later on this year.
“Yeah (I’m happy we weren’t playing against him), but I’m sure we’re going to see him,” he says. “Word is he’ll be back and he’ll be the core of their team for sure.”
The Harvest will be a different looking team this year. They graduated a handful of their core players to the junior ranks such as leading-scorer Lynnden Pastachak, who joined the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins, Dakota Odgers, who joined the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, team captain Nicolas Pouliot, who joined the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings and quite likely star defenceman Ethan Bear to the Thunderbirds.
Cross isn’t fazed by his club’s roster turnover, though. He feels it’s his job to help players get to the next level.
“It’s not that key (to get players back) because what we’re all about is trying to develop players to (get them to) the next level,” he says. “(For example) we just found out (Nicolas) Pouliot is staying in Weyburn (to play for the Red Wings) and that’s excellent - that’s exactly what we want them to do.”
The Harvest committed roster spots to four players over the summer: Adam Neibrandt, Tyler Kreklewich, Tanner Jeanott and Boedy Donald. Of the quartet, Niebrandt, who is a 16-year-old defenceman, has stood out the most.
“He had good games both games - he was probably our best defenceman both games,” says Cross on Niebrandt. “Last year he couldn’t make the team for us, but this year he’ll make the jump and I think he will make the adjustments really easy.”
The Harvest’s roster is almost set in stone, but they do have two opening skater spots and a goalie opening. There isn’t an exact time frame to get the roster down to 20 players because they are still waiting to see whether some of their players make SJHL clubs.
“We have to get the roster down to 20 guys and we have two spots to fill, but we still have guys at (SJHL) camps,” says Cross. “We have two open spots for skaters and we have one goalie spot. Slowly but surely we will get there, but it will depend on what happens in junior camps.”
Carson Bogdan, who was the Harvest’s starting goalie last year, is one of the players they are waiting on. Cross believes the Yorkton Terriers will return him to the Harvest, but he also knows anything is possible in junior hockey.
“I think he’s going to be back, but you just never know,” says the head coach. “That’s always a wait and see for us. Usually for a goalie, they generally don’t go up as a 17 year old. They usually wait until after (high school).”