Kelowna Chiefs kick off third season in KIJHL on the road Friday

Home opener set for Saturday night at Rutland Arena

Kelowna chiefs goalie Tyler O'Donnell is one of 10 returning players on the Chiefs as they kick off the season Friday night on the road

Kelowna chiefs goalie Tyler O'Donnell is one of 10 returning players on the Chiefs as they kick off the season Friday night on the road

Four out of their top five scorers are gone, there is a new look behind the bench and expectations may be higher after a trip to the league final last season.

Such is life as the Kelowna Chiefs kick off their third season of operation in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League this weekend, opening the season tonight in Summerland before hosting its home opener against Fernie at Rutland Arena on Saturday night.

Gone is league MVP Dane Rupert and fellow top scorer Landon Andrusiak who both played their 20-year-old seasons last year. T.J Dumonceaux (Vernon) and Brent Lashuk (West Kelowna) have moved up to junior A, leaving veteran blueliner Braeden Hikichi as the highest returning scorer after his 42 point season last year.

Hikichi is one of 10 returning players on the Chiefs roster.

“We might not be super-fantastic but we have 10 guys that have been there and done that and know what it takes,” said head coach Ken Andrusiak. “It makes a big difference when you have that many guys that you don’t have to re-train.”

Hikichi leads what looks to be the strength of the team: Defense. The Chiefs have five blueliners returning from last season as well as their starting goalie in Tyler O’Donnell, who played 27 games in a platoon in net last year but has been handed the starting job this season.

Along with Hikichi, three other 20-year-olds will bring the veteran presence. Kyle Clerke, Scott Renner and PJ Lawler will finish out their junior eligibility with the Chiefs this season.

Along with changes in the player personnel department, things will also look a little different behind the Chiefs bench this season. Landon Andrusiak has joined the team’s coaching staff as an assistant coach along with Matt Dyck while Grant Sheridan has become the team’s full time general manager and will focus more on off-ice matters, leaving the benchwork to the father-son Andrusiak team as well as Dyck.

The Chiefs will play a 52 game schedule in the KIJHL’s Okanagan-Shuswap Conference along with teams in Osoyoos, Princeton, Penticton and Summerland.

 

Chiefs roster with hometown

Goalies:

Tyler O’Donnell – Fountain Valley, CA

Kenny Fitzgerald – Vancouver

Defence:

Braeden Hikichi – Kelowna

Kirk Reeve – Kelowna

PJ Lawler – Kelowna

Tre Mason – Kelowna

Alex Fortin – Pickering, ON

Jordan Steel – Kelowna

Colton Dachwitz – Nakusp

Brayden Oliver – Kelowna

Forward:

Kyle Clerke – Kelowna

Jordan Salahor – Kelowna

Scott Renner – W. Kelowna

Brendan Jost – Kelowna

Quade Hamlin – Keller, TX

Bryce Koch – Kelowna

Riley Stewart – Kelowna

Jordan Lingel – Kamloops

Marshall Sidwell – Kamloops

Mitchell Barker – Kamloops

Dylan Jamieson – Kamloops

Kevin Lenzin – Calgary

Brady Mende – Winfield

Chase Astorino – Prince George

Kelowna Capital News