The Mission City Outlaws return to the ice tonight to open the Pacific Junior Hockey League regular season, after a very eventful pre-season for the club.
The Outlaws finished with a 3-1 record against fellow PJHL teams, and then traveled to Vancouver Island for a trio of games against teams from the VIJHL.
Mission fell 5-4 to the Nanaimo Buccaneers on Aug. 30, and then lost 4-3 to the Oceanside Generals in Parksville on Aug. 31. The Outlaws officially closed the book on the pre-season with a positive note, downing the Comox Valley Glacier Kings 4-3 on Sept. 1.
Now comes the hard part for director of player personnel Scott Kieler, head coach Brad Veitch and the rest of the Outlaws staff – whittling down the roster. The Outlaws carried as many as 40 players and five goalies for much of the pre-season, and those numbers will be cut by opening day.
Kieler recently went on The Celly podcast hosted by Mark Berry and admitted that the last few years have been a bit rocky for the franchise, but that he thinks 2019-20 will be a step forward for the team. Kieler noted that due to his own health issues, Veitch had a lot on his plate, adding that the coach had been heavily involved in the Mission Minor Hockey Association scene the last few years.
“Brad has retired from minor hockey and is now fully dedicated to the Outlaws,” he said. “And I’m healthy. I think we’ve both worked very hard in the offseason to bring a lot of talented guys into the mix. The league seems to be getting stronger and stronger every year.”
Kieler said the Outlaws have moved a few veterans out and slotted some youth into the Outlaws lineup. Returning players for 2019-20 include: forwards Dawson Campbell, Matias Corazza, Justin Hargrave and Tristan Takats. Hargrave was a key performer for Mission last season, with 31 points in 42 games, good for second on the team in scoring.
Defencemen back for another season include Nicholas Thomson, Micheal Nemeth and Arman Grewal. Thomson and Nemeth each recorded 13 points last season.
Rookie players listed on the team roster include Agassiz native Kade Padgham, Chilliwack’s Blake Clease and Mackenzie Adams from Pitt Meadows.
The Outlaws are seeking to make the PJHL playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Mission has finished in fifth place in the Harold Brittain conference the past two season.
The Outlaws begin the quest for championship glory tonight in Abbotsford’s MSA Arena against the Pilots. Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
The home opener occurs tomorrow (Saturday) when the Richmond Sockeyes come to the Mission Leisure Centre. That game begins at 6:45 p.m.
Mission then travels to Aldergrove to take on the Kodiaks on Wednesday night and then hosts the Grandview Steelers back home at the MLC on Sept. 14.