Outlaws play home opener Saturday

As hosts of the Cyclone Taylor Cup this year, the Outlaws are guaranteed a berth in the provincial championship tournament.

The Mission City Outlaws are gearing up for another season.

The Mission City Outlaws are gearing up for another season.

There’s a fresh sense of excitement in the Mission City Outlaws‘ locker room this fall, and for good reason.

The local junior B hockey club is embarking on a season like no other in its history – they’re hosting the Cyclone Taylor Cup, the provincial championship tournament, April 2-5. And since they’re guaranteed a berth as the host team, they’ve got a compelling goal to work towards.

“The kids and the staff are even more excited for the season to start and get going than in the past,” Outlaws head coach Brad Veitch enthused. “Definitely, some guys came back with a focus and that’s all they’re talking about right now – getting ready for (the Cyclone Taylor Cup) and winning that.”

Of course, there’s a lot of hockey to be played between now and April, and Veitch doesn’t want his charges so wrapped up in the Cyclone Taylor hype that they consider the Pacific Junior Hockey League regular season and playoffs a formality.

“We expect to win our way to the Cyclone Taylor – that’s the objective,” he said. “We don’t want to get in just because we’re hosting.”

Veitch believes he’s got the personnel to get to provincials through the proverbial front door.

Last season, Mission took a developmental approach, icing the youngest roster in the league. That investment comes to fruition this year, as the Outlaws boast terrific continuity.

Four of the team’s top five scorers from 2013-14 – Bryce Pisiak, Brody Dyck, David McGowan and Bakshi Gill – return, and they join the likes of veteran leader C.J. Lillies, trade pickup Landen Matechuk and Mission rookie Jakob Kranabetter to form a solid forward corps.

Tristan Dundas, a top-pairing blueliner last season, is back to lead the defence, and goalies Jeffrey Veitch and Bryce Phenix also return, with Veitch (the coach’s son) slated to handle the bulk of the workload.

“We probably had the most rookies in the league last year, and we’ve turned it around where this year, we’re probably going to have the fewest,” Brad Veitch said.

The Outlaws opened the season on the road Thursday with a 7-4 loss to the Langley Knights. Their home opener is Saturday vs. the Aldergrove Kodiaks (6:45 p.m., Mission Leisure Centre).

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