The Kimberley Dynamiters are kicking off the new season with training camp that officially opens on Friday and runs throughout the weekend at the Civic Centre.
Registration begins on Friday evening, which splits up all attendees into three teams that will play two games and undergo rigorous fitness testing over the course of the camp.
The Nitros have lost a few players from last year’s roster as Rylan Duley, Mark Strachan, Senate Patton and Richard Hubscher went to college and university hockey, while Jordan Revie, Colton Vannucci, Bryce Perpelitz and Braeden Ostepchuk committed to playing in other junior leagues.
Nitro head coach Roman Vopat is looking forward to getting back on to the ice after turning the club around to a winning season last year and a second-round appearance in the playoffs.
He’s also looking forward to getting down to work with Kris Knoblauch, the former Kootenay Ice coach who signed on as an assistant two weeks ago.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season again and just having the addition of Kris Knoblauch coming and helping us tomorrow and the whole weekend,” said Vopat. “It’s going to pay dividends to our organization and make it a lot easier on me and Jordan [Foreman].”
Vopat recently signed locals Jesse Richter and Aaron Shubert, two players who attended the summer identification camp at the end of July, but just because players are signed doesn’t mean they’ll make the team.
“They still gotta come and prove themselves,” Vopat said. “So do the veterans. Just because they come back from a previous year doesn’t mean their spots are guaranteed, so that’s why we’re looking to see a lot of energy at camp and we’ll see how things are going to turn out.”
Vopat did some recruiting in Drumheller and Penticton over the off-season, but credits his assistant, Jordan Foreman, for doing the majority of the legwork on reaching out to new players.
“I got to say that Jordan Foreman, he did exceptional work,” Vopat said. “He traveled a lot and contacted over 100 kids and I think he did a tremendous job.”
Vopat expects that Taylor McDowell, Brett Luker, Corson Johnstone, and Jared Marchi, among others, to step in and fill the leadership gap formed by some of the departing players.
“Yes, there will be a lot of pressure on these boys, but it’s a healthy pressure,” Vopat said. “If there’s no pressure, then there’s no reason to do sports. Every hockey player rises to the occasion, rises to the challenge and I hope the guys I mentioned rise to the occasion and lead the Dynamiters to another successful year.”
The Nitros had a turnaround season under Vopat last year, going from 40 points to 74 in the regular season, losing the Eddie Mountain division crown to the Fernie Ghostriders by a single point. The ‘Riders later eliminated the Nitros in a seven game series in the second round of the post-season.