A new season of junior hockey brings the prospect of young players stepping up, and Ridge Meadows Flames head coach Bayne Ryshak is seeing some promising signs in the junior B club’s camp this year.
On Friday the Flames hosted the Port Moody Panthers in exhibition action, and beat them 5-2. It was a welcome offensive outburst after the Flames mustered only a single goal in a 2-1 loss earlier in the pre-season. With a 2-1 win over the North Vancouver Wolf Pack on Aug. 18, the Flames have won two-out-of-three exhibition games.
And Ryshak was pleased to see Brady Buckham pot a couple of goals in the game. The 18-year-old Abbotsford product, who played at the prestigious Yale Academy, managed only one goal and seven assists in 32 games last season.
Forward Logan Hunter is an 18-year-old Port Moody resident who was in the MML with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, and had 10 goals and 27 points in 31 games with the Panthers last season. He also scored, and is looking good.
“He should be a big contributor this year,” predicted Ryshak.
Hunter came to the Flames as part of the three-way trade that saw the Flames send Bradley Crompton to the Delta Ice Hawks.
Another kid who Ryshak expects to bring his game to another level this season is Ryley Lanthier. The forward posted a respectable 16 points in 32 games last season, but is pushing for a greater role.
“He really worked his but off this summer, and it’s starting to show,” said Ryshak.
He said the Flames brass considers Lanthier one of the best skaters in the Pacific Junior Hockey League.
Daniel Chifan, an 18-year-old Surrey player, had five points in six games with the Flames last season, and will return this year.
He was with the Valley West Hawks of the MML.
The Flames still have players trying out for junior A teams, but the roster is coming together.
Ryshak said the Flames bottom six will be both bigger and faster this season. The defence will feature five returning players, and will be better simply based on experience.
“We’re starting to get the group together,” said Ryshak. “We still have a couple of decisions to make up front, and one or two on the blueline.”
The last audition for the opening night roster will be on Friday night when the Flames host the Mission City Outlaws.
The Flames’ home opener is on Sept. 8 when the take on the Port Moody Panthers.
• Games are at 7:30 p.m. at Planet Ice Maple Ridge.