The newly named Yorkton RawTec Maulers (formerly Yorkton Harvest) officially began their 2014/15 SMAAAHL season this past weekend when they hosted their preseason/main camp at the Farrell Agencies Arena.
Some 40 hockey players ranging in age from 14-17 took to the ice with the hopes of cracking the Maulers roster for the upcoming campaign during the three day camp; a camp that, according to head coach Dan Cross, is actually smaller than years past. “It was a smaller camp this year,” acknowledged Cross, adding that it’s because the Maulers only have a few spots available on the team, although some might open up later due to players being promoted to the Junior ranks. “There are some other guys like (Turner) Ottenbreit who we don’t expect back, but technically he’s a third year guy. And (Adam) Neibrandt, another local kid, he’s going out to Prince George (WHL) and maybe he’ll be back, maybe he won’t so we might have some spots open up later.”
As for the camp itself, the players had to register on Friday morning before before being subjected to two days (Friday evening to Saturday afternoon) of rigorous on-ice drills designed to test both the players’ skill level as well as their conditioning and stamina.
Following the practice sessions the players were divided into two teams for an intersquad game that took place on Sunday morning, while Cross along with assistant coach Kevin Rawlick, General Manager Garth Simms and President Glen Fafard, all viewed the proceedings from the press box, eager to scout their chosen prospects in order to put together a competitive team for the upcoming season.
And while all players put on a show during the game, there were a few who won’t be on this year’s Maulers that still impressed the Yorkton brass. “The biggest surprise was our 2000s that are going to be playing ‘AA’ Bantam this year,” offered Cross. “We had a lot of local kids, I think we had six or seven 2000s and they really impressed us this year.
“To have them in our intersquad game, where they didn’t look out of place at all, was great. It’s really exciting for our future coming up here in the next few years.”
Cross also mentioned that this year’s team should have plenty of local flavour as well, with the likes of 99 born twins Carson and McKenzie Welke making the jump to the midget ‘AAA’ ranks, as well as rookie blueliner Tyler Stratechuk, the latter of which captained the Yorkton UCT Bantam Terriers to a SBAAHL league title last year. “We’ve got the two Welkes and Stratechuk and just down the road there we’ve got Sass from Melville so there’s four local guys already,” suggested the head coach, adding that both Alex Geddes as well as Rylan Palchewich have a shot at the back-up goaltending position and both are local as well.
In fact, the amount of Yorkton and area players in camp and committed to the team is higher than it has been in years and is something that Cross feels will make the season even more exciting. “We’re going to have a new team and you’ll see a lot of local flavour there so I think it’ll be an exciting team to watch and see develop throughout the year,” said Cross, continuing, “We’re going to be a little bit younger so we are expecting that we might get off to a slow start but we’re going to build.
“We’ve got good character kids here and good local flavour this season so we’re pretty excited.”
The Yorkton RawTec Maulers will kick off their six game exhibition season with a home game against Dauphin on Friday, September 5 at 7:00p.m. at the Farrell Agencies Arena before traveling to Dauphin on Sunday, September 7.
The Maulers will open their regular season on Saturday, September 27 against in Wilcox against the Notre Dame Hounds before hosting the Battlefords Stars for a pair of home games Saturday, September 4 and Sunday, September 5.