Although the season is in the early stages, the Quesnel Kangaroos are counting on a strong performance during this weekend’s road trip (Oct. 4-6) to set the tone for the year ahead.
The CIHL team will play the Prince Rupert Rampage on Friday night, the Kitimat Ice Demons on Saturday and the Terrace River Kings on Sunday.
Roos head coach Harley Gilks is hoping to see maximum effort out of his squad.
“I’m looking for hard work,” he says, pointing out the team might have lacked in that department in an 8-5 loss to the Williams Lake Stampeders Sept. 28.
“We got outworked in that game. They were beating us to pucks, and there was some little things that shouldn’t have happened.”
The second-year coach is quick to point out there were many positive takeaways from the season opener too.
“It was great seeing what the new guys brought to the table,” he says. “They were a little bit nervous, especially the younger guys coming in.
“When they come into the men’s league, it is different and I don’t think they realized how much so.”
A road trip can be a galvanizing experience for a team with a few new players, and Gilks says it could be helpful.
“You definitely get those new bonds developing each road trip, “he says. “They mingle way better together on the ice.”
This will be their first time seeing the northern teams this season, so it will be a learning experience for many.
“We’re going to be able to get a taste of what they bring to the table, “Gilks says, “and what we can do to counteract that.”
While three wins would be ideal, the coach says there are many other things he will be looking for.
“I want to see development on the ice and within the systems we’re running,” he says. “We want them to play a good disciplined game of hockey — which means not just staying out of the penalty box, but discipline doing their jobs on the ice as a whole.”
Newly appointed captain Alessio Tomasetti says the team is excited for the northern excursion.
“It’s a big weekend at a critical time in the season. We can go up there and get three wins and come back [with a record of] 3-1 and we’re looking in good shape, but if we go in there and even lose two, we’re at the back of the pack looking in.”
He says one of the team’s top advantages this year will be speed.
“It’s the fastest we’ve ever been,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of new guys who can really skate out there and are smart with the puck. So we’ve got to find some lines and connect and we’ll be good.”
It will be up to him to provide some leadership in the new role, and he looks forward to doing so.
“It’s a huge honour to put the C on for an organization that has a lot of history. Being a part of this team for nine years and throwing that jersey on every game is a big responsibility, but I’ve put a lot of work on and off the ice, and I think it will pay off.”