Eastern Washington University’s third season of play in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League has head coach Bill Shaw excited about both his roster and schedule.
The Eagles are currently in camp through much of the rest of September at the University Recreation Center as they prepare for exhibition games in advance of their league opening game against the defending champion Selkirk Saints from Castlegar, British Columbia, Oct. 4 on the road.
Despite a late surge, the Eagles finished 9-14-0-1 in 2012-13 and missed the playoffs in their second season in the league. Eastern saddled 21-3 Selkirk with two of their defeats.
“Last year we dug ourselves a hole in November that we just didn’t have enough time to get out of,” Shaw said.
Eastern will welcome back a pair of key offensive players, including their top scorer, sophomore Uriah Machuga (24 games, 15 goals, 15 assists, 30 points) as well as junior Jake Flynn (24-12-8-20). They lose forwards Ryan Pajiomola (21-10-16-26) and Bret Kellogg (24-7-19-26).
Eastern must replace four defensemen that played a lot of games in JR Strait (18-6-4-10), Joel Blasko (22-4-3-7), Matt Randall (20-1-3-4) and Josh Jesberger (21-0-2-2).
Goaltenders, Jason Greenwell, who sported a 3.96 goals-against average and had a 6-9 won-lost record, plus Cash Ulrich (3-6, 4.59), return for their final seasons.
“We expect to have a much better season than last year and we are really pleased with the group we have assembled,” Shaw said. “We are expecting to see battles for lineup spots in all positions.” Training camp began Sept. 3.
This is the first time since Shaw has been here that he’s had a depth chart this deep. “All of our players are coming from junior hockey which shows the step our program has made.”
Some of those newcomers include defensemen Brandon Rumble (Kent, Wash.) and Kristian Ophus (Everett, Wash.) along with forwards Beau Walker (West Richland, Wash.) and Riley Ollero (Kennewick, Wash.)
“We will have 30 players in camp (four goalies, 10 defensemen, 16 forwards),” Shaw said. “We are only going to carry 25 so the exhibition games and practices should have a lot of energy.”
Eastern will play on the road against the North American League Wenatchee Wild at the Toyota Center this Saturday and then face Keyano College from Fort McMurray, Alberta, Thursday, Sept. 12 at the URC.
After opening on the road the Eagles are home for a game Saturday, Oct. 12 versus the University of Victoria before a road-heavy early season schedule has the team on the road for six of their next seven contests.
In November, the schedule shifts back to more home games with the final six games at the URC. “Our schedule is road heavy in the first half, but we get a lot of home games at the end,” Shaw said. “The home finish should be to our advantage, but we will need to play at somewhere around .500 on the road to give us a shot at making those games count.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.