The Oceanside Generals will kick off the 2023-24 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season on the road against the Westshore Wolves on Sept. 6.
The Generals aim to defend their title as VIJHL regular-season and playoff champions.
Head coach Dan Lemmon has been busy building its roster, recruiting and trading players.
“We have some core guys coming back and we’re excited for a new group of recruits coming through and have continuous success with us,” said Lemmon.
The VIJHL will have a different flavour this season as it has been reclassified as junior A (tier-2) by BC Hockey along with Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) and Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Lemmon said there will be some adjustments for all the clubs as there are changes to the rules and some requirements that need to be met. But it does open more opportunity to recruit Junior A players.
“It should help us get more out-of-town guys that have been scouted,” said Lemmon. “If you can’t make Junior A in other province, it should be easier for us to recruit players, technically. But the KIJHL and PJHL are turning Junior A as well and not just the VIJHL, so there’s a lot of competition.”
Having won the VIJHL last year, Lemmon said, does provide some appeal in attracting more players. They held their main camp recently and had a good turnout.
“The main camp was ran well and everything was pretty good because the players were competing hard,” said Lemmon. “We will be cutting some players soon and work with those who will play with us on opening day. But we’re still too early in the process and we still expect an influx of players in September who may not have been successful in other camps. So we should see some additions to the lineup during that time.”
Lemmon said fans will expect the Generals to be competitive and vie for another title.
“Last year was a really special season with a very special group,” said Lemmon. “That kind of set the standard for what we want to get for our games. We have returning players that will help us get there, who will be some of the top players in the league. I think, obviously, winning last year, we’ve got veterans coming back who has experience winning a championship and they can pass that along to our whole line up with our new recruits. We are going to play our physical brand of hockey that we’ve always have. You can expect a team that will be working hard, finishing checks and scoring goals.”
Two major players from last year’s championship, the Generals goaltending duo of Matthew Hutchison and Ashton Sadauskas will not return. Hutchison joins the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League. He was awarded the Bruce Naylor Trophy for being the top goaltender in the VIJHL last season with 19 wins, one loss and one overtime loss, with a .933 save percentage.
Sadaukas, a Parksville product who ranked second in the VIJHL last season behind Hutchison with 21 wins, 2 losses and a .907 save percentage, will play for the Kam River Fighting Walleye in the Superior International Junior Hockey League in Ontario.
The Generals recently signed a new goaltender, Marc Samyn, who is from Winnipeg. He played for the St. Paul’s Crusaders in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League, where he had 2.24 GAA last season.
The Generals will also have a new assistant coach this coming season. They’ve added Parker Wakaruk to replace Reid Coleman, who stepping down from the hockey club after helping the club in the past two years. Wakaruk is from Okotoks, Alta., and previously played junior and collegiate hockey.
Lemmon said he will be an asset to the club.