The Ridge Meadows Flames expect to have a lot to cheer about in the upcoming Junior B hockey season.                                (News files)

The Ridge Meadows Flames expect to have a lot to cheer about in the upcoming Junior B hockey season. (News files)

Flames open season Friday

Junior B team loaded with returning veterans

The Ridge Meadows Flames open their season on Friday night as one of the teams to beat in the Pacific Junior Hockey League.

Coach Bayne Ryshak said his junior B team has returned a strong core of players from last year’s team, and added talented newcomers.

Leading the team will be returning captain Andrew Strelezki, a 20-year-old, who remains as keen as when he first pulled on a Flames jersey four seasons ago.

“He’s pretty excited about this season,” said Ryshak. “He’s such a hockey nerd that he’ll text with me and he’s taking shots in his basement.”

He had 22 goals and 45 points in 41 games last season, to lead the Flames. He has the potential to take a run at the league scoring title.

Also wearing letters this year will be three assistants, including Maple Ridge’s Quenton Magnuson, a 19-year-old in his third full season with the team. He scored 11 goals and 19 points last year.

Taylor Seganfreddo, a five-foot-nine sparkplug who put up 15 points in 17 games with the Flames after a trade from North Vancouver last season is also going to be an assistant.

And the third letter will go to defenceman Ryan Wellburn. He had 28 points in 35 games last season from the blueline, and was just as impressive in his own end.

“He does everything well, and he’s got a mean streak,” said the coach, who expects Wellburn to emerge as one of the league’s very best defensemen this season.

He is also looking forward to the work of another local boy in Ian MacDonald, who comes to the Flames from the B.C. Major Midget League’s Vancouver Northeast Chiefs. The 18-year-old came close to earning a spot in the B.C. Hockey League during training camp, and is “a really good two-way defenceman.”

Another young defenceman is Emilio Salas, as the 18-year-old out of Surrey is six-foot-four and 220 pounds and plays a physical game.

In net, Paul Tucek is back for another season after playing 24 games last year. The 19-year-old out of Coquitlam went 8-11-2 with three shutouts, while posting a goals against average of 2.87 and a save percentage of .908.

Pushing him will be Cooper Anderson, he went an impressive 9-3 with the Delta Ice Hawks last season, while posting a save percentage of 0.920 – third best in the leaguge. The Surrey native is 18.

While Tucek is “the guy,” Ryshak said it is a 1A and 1B situation, and he expects Cooper to push for more playing time with his play.

• The 2017-2018 campaign begins on Friday at Cam Neely Arena, as they host Port Moody at 7:30 p.m.