FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – For the first time since November 2020, the Fort St. John Huskies will take the ice on Sunday against a real opponent.

The Huskies will host the soon-to-be-renamed Dawson Creek rivals at Pomeroy Sport Centre on Sunday afternoon, the first of three exhibition games to help teams prepare for the start of the regular season.

With so many things to prepare before the season and so many question marks after a season lost to COVID-19 restrictions, coach Todd Alexander says he’s going to focus on who’s got the best ‘hockey habits.’

“Who’s stopping at the net after shots? Who’s coming back into the [defensive] zone inside the [faceoff] dots? Who does things that are more habitual than systematic,” said Alexander. “If we’ve got players that have good habits, then the systems stuff is a bit easier.”

As for roster numbers, the coach says they are still waiting on word from the governing bodies what will be allowed this year. Currently, there are 27 players on the Huskies roster.

“Last year, the league let us card 25 players for the season, whereas normally it’s 23 players. It depends what they want to do there. We’ll see where the rules come into play here this year.”

By eliminating affiliate players — players from a lower level or age group who can join a team as needed — and allowing two extra carded players, the NWJHL was trying to keep teams and athletes in small cohorts to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission between teams.

With three exhibition games to find their ‘game legs’, Alexander says he’ll have the luxury of playing around with different lineups and getting a real good look at every player before the regular-season opener on September 24th.

“With three games instead of two, everybody will get at least two games. What also comes into play is that we had two guys show up last week that had missed practice the week before, and one of those guys hadn’t even been to camp yet, so some of those guys need a little bit more practise time too. The young guys will definitely get their crack at it, and whoever doesn’t play this weekend will definitely play both games in Cold Lake.

Warmup starts at 2 p.m. at Pomeroy Sport Centre on Sunday. Admission is by donation, and masks are required.