Following a successful romp through exhibition play, the Princeton Posse is ready for the start of ‘it counts’ hockey.
The team plays away Friday, Sept. 22, in Golden, and Saturday, Sept. 23, against Columbia Valley.
The Posse’s KIJHL home season opener is Friday, Sept. 30. “This is a group we could seriously see making a long playoff run and win that last game,” said Mark McNaughton, Posse general manager.
The Posse led the Bill Ohlhausen division in five exhibition games, with three wins, one loss and one loss in a shoot out for a total of seven points.
Between eight and 10 players from the record-breaking 2022-23 season return, which McNaughton said amounts to an overall younger entry for the coming year.
The roster is nearly set.
“I would say we are about 90 per cent there at this point. There is still trickle down happening from the Western Hockey League and some of the Canadian Junior A leagues.”
Seven players from last year have made the jump to higher levels of play, as five 20-year-olds were graduated out of the program in the spring.
However, recruitment efforts over the summer were rewarding.
McNaughton said the Posse’s recent successes, winning the Presidents Cup and taking the Teck cup finals to overtime in game seven, “is helpful in putting the program on the map.”
Management leveraged Princeton’s record, along with the staff’s genuine desire and ability to help players advance.
“It’s a testament to the work (head coach Mark) Readman has done. If you are not getting in front of the kids you could win the Stanley Cup and it would still be hard recruiting…The coaching staff is happy with everything.”
Readman was named the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s coach of the year following last year’s playoff run
Among the new bright lights so far this year is Carter Markham, from Leduc, Alta., who scored five goals in the preseason.
McNaughton also singled out the potential of defencemen Ben Dods from Chilliwack, Nathan Scott from Red Deer, Alberta and Justice Loewen from Airdrie, Alta.
The Posse’s team captain this year is Princeton’s own Curtis Gould, who received a divisional award last year for outstanding defenceman.
The team also welcomes two new assistant coaches, Estevan Hale and Austin O’Neil.