The Kimberley Dynamiters exhibition season got underway this past weekend, with games against the Golden Rockets at home on Friday, Sept. 8 and away on Sept. 9.
The Dynamiters won both games, 4-2 and 3-1, and had a home-ice crowd of 531 on Friday — not too shabby for an exhibition game.
While he was pleased to see the guys play well, Dynamiters’ head coach, general manager Derek Stuart said the final score in exhibition games isn’t what coaching staff are focused on.
“I think the results don’t really matter to us in exhibition,” he said. “We use the exhibition as an evaluation tool. So I know some teams do the same thing and others choose to practice their systems and stuff like that. We haven’t done any of that yet.
“So just to see the players play hockey, see what ones have the intuition to play properly and which ones we need to work with was good to see on the weekend.”
Following the past season’s success, taking them all the way to a game-seven victory over the Princeton Posse to take home the Teck Cup, and then a silver-medal finish at the Cyclone Taylor Cup, it doesn’t feel like too much time has passed since the Nitros’ graced the ice at the Civic Centre.
Stuart said it’s good to be back.
“It was good to see all the guys at main camp and exhibition to get into a game instead of just battling each other at practice so it was good to see the veterans back and in shape and all the new guys seem to be rearing to go as well,” Stuart said.
Following the weekend’s exhibition games, the players now have a week of four practices and then a final exhibition game in Fernie against the Ghostriders on Saturday, Sept. 16.
“Four practises, which to me at this time of year are more valuable than exhibition games, so I’m excited to get in a full week of practice in,” Stuart said. “Last week with the holiday and stuff we didn’t get a full week in, but we have a four-practice week and I’m pretty excited to get to work with these guys again.”
The team needs to be down to their regular season numbers by Sunday, Sept. 17, for themselves, but also for the players who unfortunately don’t make it, Stuart explained, as they will need time to either go back to their U18 programs or find another team in Junior hockey. Making the cuts is never an easy process, Stuart added.
“There’s obviously guys who we’re very confident and comfortable with based off last year,” Stuart said. “And I think the new guys have done a very good job of making our job as coaches difficult in this evaluation period. We’ll get down to our regular season roster on Sunday night and go from there.”
In terms of what the coaching staff will be looking for over this last week of the exhibition season, Stuart said the main thing is simply, “getting back to smart Nitros Hockey.”
“They were a little bit too individualistic on the weekend I thought, especially on Saturday, but reiterating that it’s the little things that do matter and matter a lot here,” he said. “So again, nothing systems wise, but getting the players on board with how we do things here.”