Today is the day: the season opener of the Nighthawks’ second year in the MJHL. The puck will drop tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the CRRC, pitting the Nighthawks against the Selkirk Steelers.
This week, we’ve gradually introduced our readers to all 24 players on the roster for the 2023-2024 season. But what about the coaching staff. Today we’re turning our attention to the team behind the bench, led by head coach and general manager Kelvin Cech.
Kelvin Cech (head coach/general manager) was born and raised in Sherwood Park, Alberta. He played hockey there and Strathcona County as a kid and moved into coaching after college when someone told him he was a better coach than a player.
After serving as a head coach and assistant coach for some U15 and U18 teams in the Vancouver area, Cech went on to become an assistant coach of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for three seasons. He later came to Manitoba and was named the head coach of the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers for the 2019–20 season.
“It was awesome to come in and learn the league here. Unfortunately, due to COVID, I wasn’t able to fully finish a season. But it was phenomenal to get around and meet the different personalities in the MJHL. I love this league, and I love how each team competes hard every single night. It truly is a league where anyone can beat anyone.”
For his year in Winkler, he was named Coach of the Year. Returning to the Nighthawks for a second year as head coach and general manager, Cech has again assembled a group of young men who want to compete every night.
“Our team is built on character and competitiveness. This is how we’ve gone about the recruiting process. We have looked for those men who have good character, who will be good teammates on and off the ice. It’s important to me because I believe we can search for success in a non-traditional way.”
Mike McAulay (assistant general manager/director of scouting) was born in Winnipeg and now lives in La Salle. He counts his minor hockey days as some of his most cherished, particularly a provincial championship in Stonewall, three Zone Four championships in Carman, and a silver medal in the Western Canadian Championships with the St. Malo Warriors.
His playing career wrapped up at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, where he considers his career to have come full circle after winning an MCHA championship.
With his scouting team, McAulay was successful in recruiting players to the MJHL who have gone on to make impressive contributions.
“I spent three seasons with the Winkler Flyers as their assistant general manager and head scout working alongside a good friend and mentor, Jeff Jeanson, who gave me my start in administration and scouting at the Junior A level. In Winkler, I also had the chance to work with Coach Cech, so the transition to the Nighthawks was relatively seamless. It’s a privilege to be a part of something this special.”
McAulay knows just how important it is to express gratitude to the team off the ice responsible for making Junior A hockey in Niverville a reality.
“It all starts with Clarence Braun, the board of directors, and their adoration for the community of Niverville as well as their big picture vision. It became apparent early in the process that they were committed to building a successful MJHL program in Niverville and I’m proud and honoured to be a part of it. We’re surrounded with outstanding people in all facets of the organization who share that vision and have worked tirelessly to bring it all together.”
Ben Micflikier (assistant coach) was born and raised in Winnipeg. He played AAA hockey for the Monarchs and Wild, for St. Paul’s High School, and then for two years of junior hockey, mainly with the Winkler Flyers.
Mcflikier was the defensive assistant coach for St Paul’s and helped them win both city and provincial championships in 2018.
Last season, he was the offensive assistant coach for the St. Boniface Riels of the MMJHL, who made their first playoff appearance since 2018.
“I’m incredibly excited and grateful for the opportunity to join the Niverville Nighthawks and continue building a successful team culture of accountability and support. Leading up my hiring, I heard so many great things about the players, staff, volunteers, community, and organization in general. I really can’t wait to get to work!”
Tyler Anderson (assistant coach) was born and raised in Niverville. The chance to contribute to the new team and his community is one he’s not taking for granted.
Anderson played for the Eastman Selects when he was growing up and now he gets the opportunity to help usher in the next wave of young players moving into their junior hockey years.
“I’m looking forward to grow the player development side of the game, especially in young defencemen.”
A defenceman himself, Anderson graduated from the Eastman program and moved on to Junior A with stops in the SJHL with the Kindersley Klippers and the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and West Kelowna Warriors, a team with which he won a national championship.
Following junior hockey, Anderson attended a Washington Capitals development camp before embarking on a Division 1 college career with the Superior State Lakers, a team that won the GLI Cup.
“It is awesome to finally have a team here in Niverville. As a local, it’s something I wish we would have had back in my junior days. I think it brings the community together and is a fun night out on the town for local families. It’s especially important for the younger kids to see this quality of hockey and look up to it. Billet families have a player move in, who then turns into an older brother for the young kids living in the house, and then they have a friend for life. This team helps to put Niverville on the map.”
Tyler Oswald (goaltending coach) was born and raised in Sanford. He grew up playing minor hockey in the MacDonald hockey system. He played U18AAA as a goaltender for the Pembina Valley Hawks before playing junior hockey with the Winkler Flyers.
His favourite hockey memory was winning the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey Championship with Pembina Valley.
Oswald has been coaching ever since he stopped playing around ten years ago.
He then coached for GDI in Winnipeg for four years before moving to Calgary where he pursued a degree in Sports and Recreation Management.
“While in Calgary, I worked for GDI as well as being an assistant/goalie coach for the Calgary Northstars U18AAA team for three years. After completing my schooling, I moved back to Winnipeg to rejoin RINK Goalie Development.”
Oswald has been at the RINK for more than three years now and has been coaching the RHA U18 prep team as the goalie coach. In addition to this, he has also worked with the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues in 2019–20 as their goalie coach.
“I’m really looking forward to being involved in this second season of the Niverville Nighthawks. Being part of a team in the MJHL is an exciting opportunity for myself. It’s even more of an exciting challenge to be part of continuing to grow a team and culture.”
Rob Pambrun (player development and sports science coach) was born and raised in Winnipeg. He played AAA hockey for the Winnipeg Warriors and the U18 Winnipeg Wild.
From there, he moved on to playing junior hockey in the MJHL, dressing for several team.
First came a stint with the Portage Terriers, followed by the Southeast Blades (now the Steinbach Pistons), and finally the Winnipeg Saints (now the Virden Oil Capitals).
“One of my main goals as a player was to play junior hockey at a young age. When I managed to crack the lineup as a teenager, I was extremely proud, and this was hands-down my favourite moment in hockey.”
Due to an unforeseen knee injury, however, Pambrun’s hockey career was cut short. Since then, he has become a fitness professional—a performance and physique specialist, to be exact—and he currently owns a global fitness consulting corporation named Team Prep Starz.
“The knowledge and skills that I’ve gained in the fitness industry have allowed me to find my way back into the hockey world. The Nighthawks organization values the knowledge and experience that I have brought to the table. As the player development and sports science coach, I continue to look forward to working with all the players and being a member of the community.”
Jarrett Oster (skills coach) was born and raised in Winnipeg. He played his junior hockey career for the Yorkton Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) from 1998 to 2001.
In his rookie season, Oster was awarded Rookie of the Year honours. Throughout his junior career, he was lucky enough to play in many championships, including the Royal Bank Cup.
However, an injury during his final season with the Terriers ended his career and brought Oster back home to Winnipeg.
Oster has been part of the RINK team in Winnipeg for nearly 15 years and is Hockey Canada-certified with a wealth of coaching experience in skill development and power-skating with players of all ages and capabilities.
Oster says that he is extremely excited at the prospect of getting to work with the Nighthawks’ players this season as the organization’s new skills coach.
Crystal Stott (strength and conditioning coach) was born and raised in Niverville. She has always loved the game of hockey and has been a fan since she was a kid. She has especially enjoyed watching her daughters play the sport as well throughout the years.
Stott’s favourite hockey moment comes from attending the 2005 World Juniors bronze and gold medal games.
The Nighthawks first hired Stott to be the team’s head strength and conditioning coach in the spring of 2022. Her hiring represented an official partnership between the team and ShopGym, the local facility that Stott owns.
ShopGym has a distinct collegelike atmosphere, which she says is absolutely ideal for Junior A hockey, since most of these players are looking to move on to college hockey in the future.
Stott has owned and operated ShopGym for 12 years and has trained numerous AA and AAA hockey teams. As a certified functional strength and nutrition coach, she has a special focus on hormone health and nutrition for athletic performance.
“Having been involved with this team from the ground up is a really big honour. I am so excited to be able to contribute to the team’s and individual athletes’ success as we go into our second year. I can’t wait for the season to start.”