As the calendar flips over to 2010, the Fort St. John Flyers officially begin the most exciting year in the team’s history.
In April, the Flyers host the Allan Cup, meaning they will be playing in the National Championship for the first time.
So, how is the team progressing towards its ultimate goal of winning the national championship?
For Coach Adam Brash, the question has two parts. “I believe we have the player personnel that we need to win a championship. We’ve filled the gap … defensively and offensively.” But, Brash says his team’s performance hasn’t been where it needs to be. He says it’s a question of commitment, in a fundamental kind of way. [asset|aid=2319|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=71d35a5e01af09cec7ba4dbdeb6fb904-Brash-committment_1_Pub.mp3]
Flyers G-M Rob Larson is also concerned about his team’s focus. After a loss to Grande Prairie on Dec. 18th, Larson said his team was overconfident, and not taking NPHL games seriously enough. [asset|aid=2320|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=71d35a5e01af09cec7ba4dbdeb6fb904-rob-lolligaggers_1_Pub.mp3]
In terms of the January 10th deadline, Larson says he doesn’t have any big changes to mention as of yet.
Larson says the current team will be joined by the likes of Tyler Brough, Ryan Carter, and Ryan Manitowich. He says a few players from the affiliated Dawson Creek Senior Canucks are likely to factor in, including Adam Loncan, Dustin Kersey, Rod Branch, Blair Lefebvre, and Chris Stevens. He says Mark Woolf has moved to Toronto, leaving him out of the picture, though Fort St. John native Mike Hofstrand is still on the radar.
As mentioned last week, star-defenceman Kip Noble has joined Dawson Creek for the rest of the season, in what the Flyers brass are calling a mutual agreement. Larson expects to see Noble in the Flyers lineup when they host Augustana College, and for other exhibition series’ leading up to the Allan Cup. Larson and Adam Brash both say the move will let Noble play more games, and help out the Senior Canucks in the process.
Brash also doesn’t seem too concerned about the impact of not having Noble around for practice and regular NPHL games. “He knows what to do. He’s one of those coachable guys that gets it” Brash says. “He doesn’t necessarily need to be instructed at practice, except for just playing with the guys … And he’s used to the guys.” Brash also points out the team now has four strong defencemen to work the powerplay, meaning Noble himself isn’t as vital to the team’s success.
One of those defencemen is Gerard Dicaire, who just rejoined the team, after a one-year absence. The former AHL blue-liner says his own preparations are coming along, as he gets back into the flow of competitive hockey. “Slowly” he laughs. “The timing is slowly coming back to me, and I’ve just got to drop a few pounds and get skating and working out a little bit more.” The Flyers have also added Andrew Derton, who in eight games, is now tied with rookie Adam Horst for the lead in team scoring (19 pts in 8 games).
Noble and Derton, along with Donny Lloyd and Dicaire give the Flyers two exceptional powerplay pairings, something that was missing in their McKenzie Cup loss to Bentley last season.
As far as the Savage Cup goes, Larson says Hockey B.C. has a deadline of January 12th to decide when and where the Savage Cup will be held. He says there will be three teams involved (Fort St. John, Powell River, and Whitehorse) likely in the same format as when the Flyers first won the event (against Powell River and Trail) in 2007.
Of course, it’s not just the team that is preparing for the Allan Cup. Members of the Flyers executive and Allan Cup Committee have been working tirelessly to make sure everything is ready for when Fort St. John hosts the big event.
Flyers President Paul Van Nostrand says preparations continue, and he says the pieces are starting to fall in to place. [asset|aid=2321|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=71d35a5e01af09cec7ba4dbdeb6fb904-PaulV.N.-AllanCup_2_Pub.mp3]
He says the Flyers organization is around ‘65-70’ per cent of the way to achieving its fundraising goals, and he hopes to hit the target in January.
Van Nostrand says TSN representatives were quite content with the North Peace Arena on their pre-Allan Cup visit. The plan is now to install a low-emissivity ceiling at the arena just before the Allan Cup, as well as a platform for TSN’s broadcast team and a couple of cameras.
He says the Flyers are still waiting to get the City’s permission to hold a beer-garden during the Allan Cup, and provided there are no problems, the area will be on the Southeast corner of the arena (opposite to last time). Van Nostrand says ticket sales are now underway, and he encourages hockey fans to get their tickets as soon as possible. He says the ticket packages currently on sale are a much better deal than single tickets, so it’s worthwhile to get them early.
After two weeks off over the holidays, the Flyers kick of January against Augustana College on January 2nd and 3rd. Adam Brash says the series will be an important test for Fort St. John. “They’re going to be conditioned properly. They skate every day, and they’re a college hockey team” he says, adding “They’re going to be fast, they’re going to play their systems.” Brash says it might also be the kick in the pants the Flyers need. “I think these guys are going to get a wake-up call.” Rob Larson says he expects most of the Flyers and some affiliate players will be around for the series, meaning the Flyers will probably dress some different players for each game.
Tickets for the exhibition series against Augustana are available at Ernie’s Sports Experts, in the Totem Mall.