Taylor Sanheim and brother Travis have graduated to junior. (FILE PHOTO)
After finishing above .500 for the first time in 11 seasons, the Yellowhead Chiefs will try to repeat that feat with much less star power.
The Chiefs breached the 60-point barrier last season for only the second time in team history, going 29-12-3 and earning a first-round playoff bye before losing a hard-fought Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League quarter-final to the Pembina Valley Hawks. But the team has lost two sets of twins — Shawn and Bradley Bowles as well as Taylor and Travis Sanheim — who just happened to be the Chiefs’ top four scorers last season. The Bowles brothers and Taylor Sanheim all finished in the
top 10 in league scoring, while Travis Sanheim was the second-highest scoring defenceman in the circuit.
Players like those don’t simply skate in off the pond every season, so second-year head coach Chad Facey said the best way to make due is with a united effort.
"I think we’re going to have a different kind of team, but I think we can have a lot of success," said Facey, whose team opens the season this weekend with a Winnipeg road trip, facing the Thrashers on Saturday and the two-time defending champion Wild on Sunday. "It’s going to result from a lot of kids buying into a system and I do think we can get a lot of success out of the year."
"We’re really stressing the defensive end of the rink," he continued. "We’re going to try to cut the goals against down. We may not have the firepower that we had last year, but I think we’re probably a little deeper with the defensive zone awareness, which could be a big strength for us going forward."
Among their 11 returning players, the Chiefs have three blue-liners — Jake Coulter, Tanner Kyle and Derek Cross — plus netminder Brett Friesen, who had a fine rookie campaign as a 15-year-old, going 18-6-2 with a 2.90 goals-against average.
"It’s always important to have real solid goaltending and having Brett back is going to be a big factor for us," Facey said. "He did great things last year and I’m expecting more big things this year as well as with our young goaltender (Luke Zacharias) that’s with him. I think he can be a good mentor leading forward to developing both himself as well as helping to develop the younger goaltender."
Up front, the Chiefs’ top returning scorer is Josh Martin, who had a solid season with 17 goals and 16 assists in 42 games, while Ashton Anderson (seven goals, 16 assists) and Tanner Koroscil (seven goals, 15 assists) also topped the 20-point mark in 2012-13.
Yellowhead also has some promising talent coming in, including Western Hockey League draft picks Morgan Geekie (Tri-City Americans) and Riley Shamray (Calgary Hitmen).
"I think we’ve got some really good depth this year," Facey said. "I’m really happy with some of the first-year kids that came into camp. It’s tough to replace some of those guys that we’ve lost, but each year you’ve got to do that and I think some of the young guys have taken a lot of great strides already through camp and exhibition."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 2, 2013