Cowichan Valley Releases Two, Signs One from NAHL and One from WHL:

The Cowichan Valley Capitals have signed two players without previous BCHL experience while they’ve released two players who skated with the club last season.

To Cowichan Valley:
F Matt Grant (93)
To Cowichan Valley:
F Connor Wright (92)

Released by Cowichan Valley to Fernie (KIJHL):
F Austin Evans (94)
Released by Cowichan Valley outright:
F Stephen Saretsky (91)

Here’s the article from the Cowichan Valley Citizen summarizing the moves with Cowichan Valley associate coach/GM and former Cents defenceman Jim Ingram.

Crunch Time: Battle for roster spots goes on, with pre-season beginning Sept. 9

By Kevin Rothbauer, Citizen August 31, 2011

Down to about a third of the numbers they started camp with, the Cowichan Valley Capitals are much closer to unveiling the roster that will start the British Columbia Hockey League.

“I would say we’re about seven players away from getting down to numbers,” said associate coach Jim Ingram, noting that there are fewer than 30 players remaining, with the staff needing to trim that down to 21 before Sept. 23. “There are some extremely tough decisions we have to make.”

Camp opened on Aug. 22, just over a month before the opening faceoff. The Caps won’t even play their first pre-season game until Sept. 9. Ingram wasn’t keen on having so much time between the date players first donned their practice jerseys and the first day of meaningful games, but he’s learned to see the benefits.

“I wasn’t big on starting as early as we did, but now I’m happy with it,” he said. “It’s good that we do have that extra time now.”

The two weeks between the end of camp and that first exhibition game against the Victoria Grizzlies will give the coaches more time to work with the players, and more time for the players to get accustomed to their surroundings and to each other.

It also raises the stakes for the players who are on the bubble with regards to making the final 21.

“They have a tremendous opportunity to make or not make the club,” said Ingram. “It’s totally up to them.”

On the other hand, the players will be anxious to face some real competition.

“It’s not so much that it’s going to be tough, but the boys are going to be antsy,” the coach acknowledged. “By the end, they’ll be ready to get into game situations and hit guys other than the guys they’re dressing with.”

Monday saw the remaining hopefuls engage in a hard-skating practice, focusing on cardio rather than shooting. It wasn’t easy, but Ingram was impressed with the efforts.

“Guys keep themselves in great shape these days,” he said. “They were tired, but they made it through.”

There have been a few surprises in camp; players who weren’t expected to get this far, but who are making a case for their inclusion in the final roster. Among them are forwards Dane Feeney (22 points for the major midget North Island Silvertips in 2010/11) and Connor Wright (20 points in the junior A North American Hockey League), and defenceman David London (won a junior B championship in the Kootenay league as a playoff call-up from major midget).

“They’re real solid players, and they’re going to make it tough for us,” said Ingram.

Less surprising, but still pleasing, have been Steven Iacobellis (acquired over the summer to complete January’s Mike Hammond trade), Matt Brown (a veteran of four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), and Matt Grant (brother of Cowichan’s 2010/11 scoring leader Jordan, and who played last year with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League).

This is Ingram’s first year back with the Caps after coaching in Trail for three seasons, and some of the Cowichan veterans with whom he was previously unfamiliar have also opened his eyes. Specifically, Brendon MacDonald and Keyler Bruce, two hard-working Alberta boys, have stood out for their leadership capabilities and maturity.

“They’re a couple of guys noted for other things, not their play style,” said Ingram.

A few other players with whom Caps fans are familiar won’t be returning to the fold after the coaches decided they just didn’t fit with the plans for 2011/12. Dante Godinho (13 points in 39 games last year) was traded to the Victoria Grizzlies for future considerations, while Austin Evans (eight points in 47 contests) and Stephen Saretsky (13 points in 47 games) were released.

Evans found a job with the junior B Fernie Ghostriders, while Saretsky is still weighing his options.

“It’s tough, but at the same time, we have to make these types of decisions,” said Ingram, noting that the BCHL has lowered its rosters from 23 players last season to 21 this year. “We can’t keep everybody, unless the rules change drastically and let us keep 100 guys on our roster.”

It all boils down to finding ways to improve on last year’s 21-30-1-8 record and return to the playoffs. “We’ve got to improve our hockey team,” said Ingram. “And I think that’s what we’re doing.”

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