The Kitimat Ice Demons, traditionally league leaders in its previous nine years in the Central Interior Senior Men’s hockey scene, will be intent on being “better prepared” and ready to win as the club enters its 10th anniversary season this October.
The Ice Demons faced some demons of their own in the opening games of last season as they struggled through a very rocky start in the fall of 2010, even suffering unexpected and embarrassing defeats in road games against local rivals, Smithers Steelheads, Terrace River Kings and Prince Rupert Rampage.
Critics quickly and gleefully predicted the downfall of the Demons’ powerhouse as the team fell in the early season standings.
However, by Christmas the Ice Demons began to get their house in order, squared away some key player injury and lineup difficulties and, with essentially the same team as the 2009 season, came together with a strong late-season rally that took them (even with a seriously shorthanded lineup) to within a goal of winning the CIHL playoff championships, on the road in Williams Lake.
But the late rally was enough to allow the team to again qualify for the Coy Cup provincial championship tournament in Prince Rupert in March.
The rebound was carried on in Prince Rupert and the Ice Demons capitalized by capturing the Coy Cup with a convincing 8-5 win over Williams Lake in the final.
The Coy Cup win, the Ice Demons’ fourth in seven seasons, put the icing on the “return to strength” cake and provided evidence of the turn-around achieved by retiring coach, Dan Baker, who had been seriously ill throughout most of the season.
The team honoured Baker with a ceremony dedicating the Coy Cup win to Baker, on ice after its presentation.
However, the rocky season also provided more proof of the growing level of team equality in the CIH league.
The Ice Demons situation was exacerbated by some community economic issues, injury and the occasional unavailability, due to work, of some key players and pointed out that a better effort would be needed from game one in the 2011-12 season.
A step towards providing continued experienced leadership as head coach for the upcoming season is the return of Barry Boudreault, former four-time Coy Cup winning coach of the team.
Boudreault, along with another former head coach, Mike Steponavicius, stepped into the void created by Danny Baker’s illness during the Coy Cup in Prince Rupert, leading the Demons to victory.
Well known hockey player and coach Darryl Craft will be an assistant coach, depending on work schedules.
The Ice Demons’ expect most of its experienced “core leadership” of players to be back in the lineup from the start this season, along with a number of younger additions who will add both energy, skill and speed to a team already well equipped.
However, the new format of three divisions will require a careful approach to the new season as all teams will be watching the impacts of the new league configuration brought on by the addition of two new teams, the Quesnel Kangaroos and the Lac La Hache Tomahawks.