The Ridge Meadows Flames have a total of eight players who have been chosen to play in the Pacific Junior Hockey League all-star game on Monday.
Ian MacDonald, Ryan Wellburn, Daniel Chifan, Halen Cordoni, Cameron Kovesdi and Andrew Strelezki have all been announced as skaters for the Harold Brittain Conference.
Goaltenders Cooper Anderson and Paul Tucek, who have provided a formidable tandem for the Flames this season, were earlier named to the team, based on their league-low goals against average. Anderson has gone 10-6 with a 2.55 GAA, while Tucek is 12-5-1 with a 2.67 GAA. Their total stats are easily the best in the conference.
And the Flames coaching staff, headed by Bayne Ryshak, will be running the bench for the Brittain Conference team.
MacDonald is a rookie defenceman playing for his hometown team, who has put up four goals and 19 points in 30 games.
“He’s really good as a passer, really steady on the back end, and doesn’t lose a lot of battles,” said Ryshak.
Ryan Wellburn is a 19-year-old who is in his third season with the Flames, and the blueliner has compiled 60 points in 95 games through his career.
“He is one of – if not the – best defencemen in the league,” said Ryshak, noting Wellburn is physical and tough to beat in his own end, and dangerous joining the rush.
Daniel Chifan is another rookie who has stepped into the lineup and made an immediate impact, with 10 goals and 25 points in 25 games. He has big size and a high hockey IQ, both with and without the puck.
“He’s a really good down low player,” said Ryshak, but added Chifan is also dangerous off the rush.
He’s a rookie, but “there’s a lot of trust there.”
Veteran forward Halen Cordoni has always been dangerous, with 57 goals and 118 points in his 147 games. As a 20-year-old the Pitt Meadows resident has taken his game to a new goal-a-game level, with 23 goals and 35 points in 24 games. He is fifth in league goal scoring, despite playing six or eight fewer games than the guys ahead of him.
“There’s nobody in the league more dangerous from 20 feet in.”
The Flames stole Cameron Kovesdi from the Richmond Sockeyes in an early season trade. The Maple Ridge resident had played minor hockey with Cordoni, and the two had more chemistry than The Big Bang Theory.
He leads the team in assists with 26, and 37 points in 33 games, and it is no accident.
“He’s easily our best playmaker – very, very smart with the puck.”
Team captain Andrew Stelezki could be vying for a league scoring title, Ryshak asserts. As it is, Captain Flame has an impactful 13 goals and 37 points in 33 games, is 11th in league scoring, and his coach considers the 20-year-old Missionite one of the top players in Junior B.
If he wasn’t on a team with such deep talent at forward, Strelezki could easily play in more offensive situations, log more ice time, and have at least 10 more points. As it is, Ryshak shares around the ice time and the offensive situations, and keeps his players engaged – sacrificing the chance for a few individuals to put up big points.
His hope is that the players are rewarded with a championship.
Ryshak said the all-star game will be a nice experience for the Flames, and he hopes their teammates who have the night off come to the game and cheer them on.
“It’s cool. One of the messages we have is to enjoy every moment this year.”
There are some notable omissions from this year’s team, as guys like Ryley Lanthier, Jayden Genberg and Logan Hunter are three forwards hovering around the point-per-game mark.
“There’s a lot more guys on our team who have earned it, but you have to represent the whole conference,” said Ryshak.
The 2018 PJHL all star game will be hosted by the Langley Trappers at George Preston Arena on Monday at 7 p.m .