enewed optimism for the Ridge Meadows Flames as the team prepares for a pair of games today.
The Flames will lace-up their skates for a pair of split-squad games against the Mission City Outlaws.
Head coach and general manager Jamie Fiset said the team will dress between 16 to 20 skaters for each game.
Half of the players in camp, which opened Monday, will travel to Mission for a match at the Leisure Centre starting at 3:30 p.m.
The remaining players will then take on the split-squad from Mission at Planet Ice starting at 7 p.m.
The two teams should build a fair amount of animosity for each other as they face off four times in the pre-season before squaring off against each other for the Flames home-opener Friday, September 14 at 7 p.m. at Planet Ice.
Fiset said the opening days of camp have posed some interesting dilemmas for the coaching staff, as several rookies have stepped up and shown they are ready to challenge for a roster spot.
“We did our fitness training on the opening day and six of our rookies were near or at the top of the charts,” said Fiset, who is in his sixth season with the Flames.
“That says a lot about our veterans. They are going to be pressed hard to keep their spots on the team.”
Fiset said the team has seven players currently away at other junior camps and should all return, the Flames may have to move some veterans to make way for some younger players. As a coach, Fiset said he doesn’t mind having a wealth of talent on hand.
“This is one of those years where we have lots of options where players can fit into different roles. It just makes player selection a little more difficult.”
The Flames used a late season push to make the playoffs and faced the Aldergrove Kodiaks in the opening round.
Despite the Flames finishing 36 points behind Aldergrove, Fiset’s team pushed the Kodiaks to a grueling six-game series, bowing out with a tough 2-1 loss.
The strong finish has Fiset and his coaching staff chomping at the bit to drop the puck on the 2012/13 season to prove last year was no fluke..
“It’s nice to be back on the ice after a long summer of recruiting and meetings. We’ve got some good competition for rosters spots, so it’s a good position to be in,” said the 41-year-old coach.
While rookies may be making for sleepless nights as the Flames try to whittle down their roster for their season opener September 12 on the road against the Kodiaks, Fiset has been impressed with a pair of team veterans.
He said six-foot, two inch forward Paul Piluso and 5’9” forward Alex Smith have had strong camps so far and are asserting themselves as early leaders on the team.
“It’s nice to see they came in this year and have dedicated themselves to the team. It looks like they are on a mission to establish themselves after not having the season they probably wanted last year.”
Piluso played 40 games last season and recorded 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points.
Smith played 43 games and had five goals and 14 assists for 19 points.