Puck ready to drop on new era of Spartans hockey

Trinity Western men's hockey team will be led by coach Barret Kropf

With a new coach, in Barret Kropf, and numerous fresh faces in the lineup, the Trinity Western men’s hockey team, will open the 2013-14 season on Oct. 4 against Thompson Rivers in Kamloops ready to start writing a new chapter in Spartans history.

Following a 6-16-0-2 regular season record in 2012-13, the Spartans underwent a number of changes in the offseason and, with a focus on altering both the culture and on-ice performance, Kropf is optimistic this year’s team is set for a turnaround campaign.

With a new head coach comes a new direction and a relatively new-looking roster.

Certainly, for fans of the Spartans hockey team there are plenty of familiar faces in the likes of captain Brad Bakken (Langley), assistant captains Jake Harcoff (Surrey, B.C.) and Jamie Russell (Surrey, B.C.), now second-year veterans Blair Murphy (Surrey, B.C.) and Harry Fredeman (Ladner, B.C.) and fifth-years Trevor Beaupre (New Westminster, B.C.) and Josh Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.), but with a new coach has also come an influx of new talent.

Leading the way amongst the recent recruits and likely offensively for the Spartans this year will be first-year forward JP Villeneuve (Georgetown, Ont.), who arrives at TWU after playing with the Powell River Kings of the BCHL last season. With the Kings, Villeneuve was named the team’s MVP and, along the way, collected 24 goals and 16 assists in 54 games. Expect him to make an immediate impact and, with his two-way game, to be contributor in a variety of roles.

Beyond Villeneuve, look for the offence to be largely anchored by Russell, Mattias Schmitt (Surrey), Cody Stephenson (Aldergrove), first-year Andrew Wheeler (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and last year’s leading scorer Jamey Kreller (Winfield, B.C), who finished the season with 10 goals and seven assists in 24 games. However, for a TWU team that scored a league-low 66 goals last year, the offence will have to come by committee. Villeneuve will be the sparkplug, but the Spartans will need contributions from all four lines if they are to make a return to the post-season.

Defensively, TWU will be solid. With Bakken back for his third year with TWU, he’ll once again lead the Spartans blue line. After that, look for Harcoff and Murphy, who had 12 and 13 points respectively last year, and first-year Daniel Stollery (Camrose, Alta.) to round out the top four. Former Spartans men’s basketball player Micah Cockrill (Chilliwack, B.C.) joins the men’s hockey team this year and he’ll compete for minutes on the back end along with Aaron Gruenhage (Abbotsford, B.C.), Riley Schmidt (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) and Tristano Falbo (Langle).

Between the pipes, the Spartans will carry four goalies but, barring injury, it’ll be Harry Fredeman (Ladner, B.C.) and Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) competing for starting minutes. Fredeman returns as the incumbent starter after an impressive first year in which he made 501 saves on a league-high 564 shots, but he’ll be pushed by the likes of Matthys and former BCIHL goalie of the year Tim Zwiers (Williams Lake, B.C.). Tomoki Yoshizawa will be the fourth goalie on the roster.

After two years out of the playoffs, the Spartans are hungry to get moving in the right direction. With a puck possession style and mandate from the coaches to be the hardest working team in the league, anything less than a post-season appearance this year would be a disappointment.

“Making the playoffs is our goal,” Kropf said. “But it’s going to be a tall order because every team has improved in the league. There’s really no weak sister in the conference. It’s going boil down to us as coaches having the players ready and in a 24-game season, you can’t afford to coast your way through a few weekends.”

And with nine of their 12 home games coming in the fall semester, the fortunes of the team’s season will largely lay in the Spartans fall production at the Langley Events Centre.

“It’s good in the sense that we are at home and guys love to play at home,” Kropf said. “But if we don’t get off to a good start, it’s going to drag on to a long season in the second half.”

 

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