After an inaugural season that saw them take their lumps, the Langley Rivermen are expecting bigger and better things in the 2012/13 hockey campaign.
Last season saw the team struggle — they went 19-35-1-5 to finish second last in the BCHL’s Coastal Conference — as they only had a handful of players with experience at the junior A level.
But as the Rivermen get set to kick off year this weekend in Chilliwack for the BCHL’s Showcase — all 16 teams will play two league games over the weekend at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre — new head coach Bobby Henderson anticipates better things.
“Hopefully, it will bring a little more excitement than last year,” he said.
“We should be competitive.”
“We have an identity that we want to be a big, fast, skilled tough team to play against and consistent with our effort.”
Of Langley’s final 22-player roster, a dozen of those have junior A experience, and nine played for the Rivermen.
“The biggest thing they would have learned from last year is how competitive the league is,” Henderson said.
“You can’t come in unprepared or take a night off; you have to be ready to go and that was probably our steepest learning curve last year, the preparation.”
Henderson, who was an assistant coach for the team last season, feels the Rivermen have assembled a good mix of returning veterans and incoming recruits.
“For this year to be successful, we just need these guys to believe they can beat every team every night,” he said.
“It is just a mindset.”
“We are excited about our roster and expect to be competitive this year,” he added.
“We hopefully give the fans some exciting hockey to watch.”
Two-thirds of what should be the team’s top line are newcomers in Langley’s Jakob Reichert and Mitch McLain, one of a dozen Americans on the roster. They will be joined by last year’s leading goal scorer Mario Puskarich, who had a team-high 31 goals.
Evan Campbell (12 goals, nine assists) and Derek Sutliffe (15 goals, 17 assists) are also being counted on for increased offensive roles.
The defence will be led by new team captain Thomas Nitsche, one of three blue-liners in his final season of junior eligibility.
The other two are newcomers Logan Smith and Tyler Vanscourt.
Smith played last season in the USHL while Vanscourt suited up in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. He should provide some punch from the back-end as he had a dozen goals and 32 points in 70 games.
In goal, James Barr takes the reigns after serving as back-up last season. He won nine of the team’s 19 victories. Pushing him for playing time will be rookie Darren Hogg.
The Rivermen have a tough start to the season with just one home game at the Langley Events Centre this month. It will be Sept. 22 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.