The Niverville Nighthawks are geared up and ready to take on another MJHL season as the team looks forward to hit the ice for Friday night’s home opener.
“I don’t think I got everything accomplished, as it’s a work in progress. Every day is a new day, and there are things we need to improve on,” says Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “We changed the way we played in the past. The guys are adapting to our new ways that we’re attacking. Our defending needs a little work at this point, so we’re going to try and keep getting better.”
Cech notes that the club had some clear goals over the summer for being a little heavier, a little faster, in particular on the walls, and winning those key battles.
“We recruited some powerful young wingers up front who are doing a great job on the wall and winning the bluelines,” he adds.
The Nighthawks had a pretty good preseason, as they won three games and lost twice. The first game was particularly interesting because it was against the Kam River Fighting Walleye, a team out of northern Ontario that play in a different Junior A league, the SIJHL.
“That was arranged mainly by Mike McAulay, who has many connections in several leagues,” says Cech, referring to the team’s assistant general manager. “He worked on that in the beginning of summer and to bring that together was pretty cool. It was a real competitive game and a ton of fun.”
Niverville defeated Kam River 3–1 that night. Their other preseason results included 4–2 and 4–3 wins over the Selkirk Steelers and 6–5 and 3–1 losses to the Steinbach Pistons.
There are a lot of new Nighthawks this season, and Cech is excited about them. In particular, the club has two new stud goaltenders who are sure to stop a lot of pucks this season.
“The biggest thing is we wanted to put a stop to the carousel in net, as we had five different goalies play for us last season because of injuries and whatnot,” says Cech. “Raiden LeGall is dynamic, as his habits are awesome. Keegan Gordon is just a phenomenal kid and battles so hard and works. They’re both going to be fan favourites for sure in town.”
The Nighthawks had a lot of players at training camp who were forced to come and go in order for the team to get down to a 23-man roster for the season opener. There were some tough decisions involved, but Cech endeavoured to go about it as delicately as possible.
“Cutting players is always tough. Some are going back to their U18 teams, and some guys are traded and going to different leagues. The last couple of cuts are really terrible, as they’re the guys who started to get comfortable in town. It’s not fun, but our job is to build the best possible team for our town.”
As the Nighthawks get ready for the first game of the season, the biggest thing for Cech this week is to just get his troops organized in certain situations, like special teams and faceoffs.
“There are so many little details that people don’t see behind the scenes, so we have to take care of some stuff before we take the ice on Friday.”
The Nighthawks kick off their season this weekend with a pair of games on September 22 and September 23. They start on Friday night against the Selkirk Steelers and then play the following night against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. The puck drop for both games is 7:00 p.m. at the CRRC.
“Energy and emotion won’t be a problem, as we know what our fans will be like,” says Cech. “Especially now that they know what to expect. We’re excited and can’t wait to get to Friday night.”