The Yorkton Harvest hit the road this past week with three exhibition games on their schedule.
It goes without saying that head coach Dan Cross wants his club to win every game, but he wasn’t too worried about their 1-2-0 record because the whole point of exhibition action is to get the rust off.
“I was happy with some good performances in the games,” said Cross. “There was some encouraging signs in the game with how the team would breakout the puck and guys were creating some good scoring chances.”
The Harvest lost their opening game on Sept. 11 against the Tisdale Trojans in a high scoring 8-5 affair.
Special teams was the difference-maker in the game as the Harvest went 0-9 on the power play while the Trojans potted three goals on 13 chances.
“There’s a lot of rookies so we expected to have some areas where we would need to work on,” said Cross on the Harvest’s power play.
Rookie Tanner Jeannot, who played for the Estevan ‘AA’ Midget Bruins last year, stood out for the Harvest on the score sheet, tallying two goals and two assists.
“Tanner had a good game and that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” said Cross. “We want guys to step up and show they are ready to play in this league.”
Carter Phair, who stopped 13 of 18 shots, and Rylan Palchewich, who stopped seven of 10 shots, split time between the Harvest pipes.
Despite getting out shot 49-34, Yorkton rebounded 4-1 in their second game in Wilcox against the Notre Dame Hounds.
“We played a solid game against Notre Dame,” said Cross. “We got some good goaltending and scored four goals. It was a much better effort than the Tisdale game.”
Koal Roberts, Tyler Kreklewich, Brennan Watson and Damian Bentz scored one apiece in that respective order to give the Harvest a four-goal lead heading into the final frame.
Of the goal scorers, Watson stood out to Cross.
“He has been playing really well for us as just a 15 year old,” said the head coach. “He has some good offensive instincts and creates some good scoring chances for us.”
Hounds forward Kirill Klassen broke Carson Bogdan’s shutout with a marker in the middle of the third period.
Yorkton’s Breden Pyne stopped all 15 of shots in net, while Bogdan turned away 33 of 34 bullets.
Yorkton dropped their third contest 6-3 in Wilcox’s Duncan McNeill Arena the following night against the Team Sask U-16.
“Team Sask really wanted it more out there because all of their guys are trying to make the team,” said Cross. “We were in it most of the game, but they scored an empty-net goal to put it away.”
With five pre-season games under their belt, the Harvest’s defence appears to be shaping up as their most notable strength.
“I think our defence will stick out for us this year,” said Cross. “Turner Ottenbreit and Adam Neibrandt have looked good, and so have Logan Karakochuk and Logan Leslie. Karakochuk wasn’t in the best shape last year and has come to camp this year in a lot better shape. And Leslie is returning from last year and should be a steady guy for us.”
It is possible the Harvest’s back end situation could even get better if the Seattle Thunderbirds were to send Ethan Bear back to Yorkton. It, however, seems like a very unlikely scenario.
“I don’t expect him to be back here,” said Cross. “He was one of the best defenceman in the league last year as a rookie. And he’s very dedicated to the game and wants it. I believe he’ll be in Seattle this season.”
On the offensive side of things, it seemed the Harvest’s offense would be a work in progress because they lost Lynnden Pastachak (SJHL’s Estevan Bruins) and Dakota Odgers (WHL’s Swift Current Broncos), who finished first and second respectively in scoring last year, to the junior ranks. But with the Melville Millionaires sending Jaden Kreklewich back to Yorkton and a handful of rookies stepping up, goals shouldn’t come as sparingly as once thought.
“It was great to get Jaden back,” said Cross. “He’s ready this year to have a big year in his last year of midget. He has also had some instant chemistry with his brother Tyler (who is a 15-year-old rookie). They look good together and that could be a strong offensive duo for us.
The Harvest’s next and last exhibition game takes place on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at Farrell Agencies Arena against the Trojans.