Veteran squad prepares for Mintos, Blackhawks
Moose Jaw Generals
After going undefeated in the pre-season, all the chips are now on the table.
The Moose Jaw Generals will open their regular season the road this weekend against the Prince Albert Mintos and Beardy’s Blackhawks.
“I think all the boys are excited just to get everything started in P.A. and we are looking forward to a good season,” said Generals’ veteran Rykr Cole. “I think we are going to have a good outing, but we just need to have some good, strong practices here throughout the week and be ready for P.A. and Beardy’s.”
The Generals finished the pre-season with two wins over the North Dakota Selects last weekend, but realize the real work is only now beginning.
“We have to work. We can’t get too big of heads here. It was exhibition season. I am happy with how we worked. The confidence right now is pretty good, but we have to make sure we don’t get over-confident,” stated Generals’ head coach Ray Wareham. “We have two tough buildings to play in and we are going to find out a lot about our character and how we respond. It is going to be interesting.”
The Generals will be the host team for the 2014 Telus Cup and the Mintos are hosting the western regional tournament, which should set the season opener to be the start of an intriguing battle.
“I think it will be a strong test and they should be pretty good, like always. I think our team is pretty good right now too, so I think it will be a good battle up there,” said Cole.
Wareham added: “The guys are looking forward to it…now it counts for two points and something to play for.”
Veterans will lead the Generals, but Grant Naherniak will be looked upon to provide solid goaltending.
“I am pretty excited with the Telus Cup coming and it is such a good opportunity to come back and show that I can be a good starting goaltender and have responsibility and help the team out this year,” Naherniak said.
The 17-year-old goalie was at Red Deer Rebel camp, but was re-assigned back to the Generals. Although he wanted to stay with the WHL team, he is happy to have the majority of the crease time this year.
“It was a little disappointing as I thought I was going to be there as a 17-year-old, but it is a good opportunity to improve more and more each day and get a starters’ responsibility and always be ready for next year,” he stated. “I think I can get a little groove going and a little rhythm. It is good to have Colby (Entz), he is a good backup and so far we have a good friendship going and I look forward to mentoring him.”
For the past few seasons, the Generals have been a gritty team that had to grind out wins. However, this season, they have some firepower up front and are strong defensively as well.
“We do have more skill than in past years and more depth skill-wise. We still want to be that tenacious and relentless kind of forecheck type of team,” said Wareham of the team’s identity. “We are all about letting them have some freedom from our blue line to their end, but I like to be pretty structured in our own end and I don’t like giving up a whole lot. So, the challenge for them is to keep it under 99 goals against for the year. If exhibition play is any indication, we are going to be okay.”
The Generals will play the Mintos on Saturday afternoon and then the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon. They will have their home opener on Oct. 10 when Swift Current visits.
Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman