Jerry Bancks always said one of the biggest keys to success was a quality contingent of locally-grown players.
For the past few years, the Kimberley Dynamiters were the envy of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, deploying a core of local players including the likes of captain Jason Richter, Jared Marchi, Trevor Van Steinburg and Tyler Van Steinburg, just to name a few.
As it stands, Richter is off to pursue post-secondary education while playing for the University of Jamestown Jimmies ACHA Div. 1 men’s hockey program and Marchi has aged out of junior, leaving two significant holes to fill in the contingency of locally-produced Dynamiters.
Derek Stuart, head coach and general manager of the Dynamiters, helped address that need as he signed local products Terrell Clarricoates and Caige Sterzer.
“It’s really important, first of all, it’s great for the fan base at large to have some local kids and families that they recognize from Kimberley and Cranbrook,” said Jeff Keiver, assistant coach of the Kimberley Dynamiters, Monday afternoon. “It helps with our attendance and the overall attention that the team receives, but it’s also really good for minor hockey systems as well.
“Young kids can see their path. We always keep that connection alive so kids [in minor hockey] can really relate to somebody they know. That path [to junior hockey] is laid out clearly.”
Stuart confirmed the signings over the phone from Osoyoos Thursday evening after arriving for the KIJHL annual general meeting.
Clarricoates and Sterzer should be names familiar to Nitro Nation, with both having suited up as affiliates this past season.
Clarricoates is a 17-year-old forward (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) hailing from Cranbrook. He suited up in three regular season games during the 2015-16 season, tallying one goal.
“He’s a hard-working player,” Keiver said of Clarricoates. “From what I’ve seen, he’ll go to the dirty areas and he will finish his checks. He’s been a great kid in the dressing room through our playoff run and all that.
“He kept his eyes open and he was trying to learn as much as he could from the veteran team that we had last year.”
Sterzer is set to turn 16 this August and dressed from three regular season games — registering one assist — as well as two playoff games this past season.
At 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Sterzer stands to inject some youth into the retooling Dynamiters after spending the bulk of 2015-16 playing with the Kootenay Ice of the B.C. Major Midget League, stacking up nine points in 39 games.
“He’s a kid that we’ve been watching growing up and he’s getting a lot bigger,” Keiver said. “He’s going to be able to hopefully make some offensive plays out there for us.
“Same as Terrell, he was willing to do everything we asked of him last year in a very limited role. With these younger guys, the coolest thing is that we don’t really know what there ceiling is yet. We’d like to see them play a full season and have high hopes for where they can go. They haven’t really been put in that position yet, so we’re excited to see what they can do.”
With Clarricoates and Sterzer under wraps, the Dynamiters have secured a young group of upcoming local talent, including returning forward James Rota and defenceman Lucas Purdy.
In their rookie seasons, Rota tallied 13 points in 42 games while Purdy posted nine points in 36 games.
For players like Clarricoates, Purdy, Rota and Sterzer, there will be ample opportunity when training camp officially opens, as the Dynamiters roster undergoes a massive overhaul with a number of key cogs moving on to college, aging out of junior hockey or advancing to higher levels of hockey.
“It’s a really exciting time for younger players in the Dynamiters system,” Keiver said. “Probably for the first time in two or three years there’s lots of openings in the top-six [forwards], top-four [defencemen], power play, penalty kill.
“They’re going to get a really good look at those positions and the same goes for anyone else. For the first time in a couple years we can actually tell our recruits that there’s power-play time, top-six minutes and top-four minutes on the backend for players, whereas in the last couple years we wouldn’t say that. We were pretty honest with our recruiting process that you were going to come in here and really have to work if you wanted to get those minutes because we had so many veteran guys already established themselves in those roles.”
Fans, along with those in Dynamiters hockey operations, will have to play wait-and-see with an additional trio of potential returning locals.
Korbyn Chabot, a 16-year-old Cranbrook product, was a ninth-round pick (182nd) of the Tri-City Americans at the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. He is expected to return to Americans camp this fall and is also on the radar of the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles after attending the team’s spring camp earlier this year.
The Van Steinburg brothers have signed with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles and while former Nitro Sawyer Hunt can tell you there are no guarantees, both Van Steinburgs should have a good opportunity to crack the Canmore squad this fall.
Matchsticks: The Castlegar Rebels filled their coaching vacancy, announcing the hiring of Bill Rotheisler as head coach and general manager Sunday evening. Rotheisler takes over from Jesse Dorrans who accepted the head coach/general manager’s role with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League earlier this spring. Rotheisler spent 2015-16 as an associate coach with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats and was previously the head coach and general manager of the KIJHL’s Princeton Posse…