As a first year coach in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, it was a growing period for Dalton Stoltz.
Stoltz came to Briercrest in August as the new coach for the Clippers men’s hockey team and as he preached discipline and hard effort for his team, it was a year of more downs than ups.
“It was a good learning year and everyone learned some lessons. The key is to apply those lessons we learned and move forward from there,” said Stoltz. “We are optimistic that we will take some steps forward in the off-season and we will be ready as we head into fall.”
The Clippers finished with a 1-27 record and the team did not make the playoffs. The team had difficulties keeping up with some of the other teams in the league as they were consistently out-shot and many games were lost by two or more goals.
“Up until the last two previous weekends, five of the last seven games, our goal differential was down significantly. So, that is a positive,” he explained. “When you eliminate a goal differential by four and five goals on some weekends…that is an encouraging stat. We are trending in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.”
Although the Clippers are a smaller school in the league, Stoltz doesn’t believe that just because they have fewer students they should be less competitive.
“Portage College is also a small school too. Some of these schools like NAIT and SAIT are big schools and they have a long history of being successful. I think, for us, we have to start doing things that we’ve never done before and be completely unconventional and think completely out of the box and we need to be open to exploring those opportunities,” he stated. “Part of that means pounding the payment like it has never been done before.”
Now that the off-season has come, Stoltz will be busy trying to land some recruits that are older and will add a veteran feel to the Clippers lineup. He is headed to Vancouver Island this weekend to try and bring some new players to the program along the way.
“We’ve been doing a lot of networking and phone calls all season and now we are just trying to seal with deal with some of these players,” he said. “We are doing our best to recruit some 20 and 21 year olds.”
Next season will still be a learning year for the Clippers, as the team will still be quite young. The Clippers will lose two veteran players — Mike Fischer and Jesse Chenard, as both are fifth year players. Chenard finished his career with two records — ACAC single season and career saves.
“It is obviously hard to lose him in the locker room and on the ice. He is just so steady and consistent back there, but we feel confident moving forward that we can get the job done by committee,” explained Stoltz. “We have Christian (Mueller) and he made a lot of progress and we have two new goalies already signed on with us. We are going to miss Jesse, but we are happy with the guys we have moving forward.”
With a full off-season to continue to recruit and develop a game plan for next year, Stoltz senses an excitement will be renewed around Barkman Arena for the Clippers.
“I am optimistic…we have a great core and a lot of new faces. I think there is going to be a renewed excitement to develop and take some more steps forward as a program,” he said. “We want to accomplish more than we did this year.”