Coyotes ramp up pre-season with Summerland matches

An attentive group of Coyotes listens to coach Ken Law during practice Wednesday afternoon. The club hosts Summerland Friday evening.

When it comes to junior hockey, there are two kinds of pre-season exhibition hockey games — those you play to get a good look at the new guys and those you play to get ready for the new season.

Two contests the Osoyoos Coyotes played last weekend are a good example.

The first — a 5-1 home loss to Princeton Saturday evening — was a last chance for the Coyote coaching staff to evaluate the 15 or so talented rookies vying for final spots with this year’s club.

The Coyotes 7-1 romp in Princeton the following night was the latter.

“It probably should have been worse,” said Coach Ken Law of the final score after he put a dozen of last year’s squad on the ice and mixed in a few of the brighter training camp lights.

This weekend, the club will take another step toward the regular season with home-and-home exhibition matches with the Summerland Steam.

The two South Okanagan rivals meet in Osoyoos Friday evening, then do it all again in Summerland the following night.

Game time Friday evening is 7:35.

It’s all part of the process of tweaking and twitching as the Coyotes pare their numbers to 20 skaters and two goaltenders.

And it’s not without its complications.

“That’s what our job is to do — move these guys up,” says Law of a number of Coyotes unavailable to the team as they’re away trying out with Junior ‘A’ clubs across Western Canada.

For example, the Yotes’ top two goaltenders — Liam Aitken and Daniel Paul — are in North Battleford, Sask., and Coquitlam respectively.

Aitken was stellar in a rookie capacity last season, earning 14 wins — seven by shoutout — in the 17 games he played. Paul, meanwhile, comes from North Okanagan, where he was the Knights’ starting netminder last season.

That means South Okanagan product German Acuna may get a chance to play this weekend, sharing time with Winnipeg’s Patrick Wiens.

Missing also are Hunter Johnson and Colin Bell, the latter busy fighting fires for the province. Johnson may be back in time for the season opener Sept. 8; Bell is not expected to return until late September.

The Yotes are scheduled to open the regular season Sept. 8 in Chase. They play in Kelowna the following night. The club doesn’t open at home until Sept. 22, when it hosts the Kamloops Storm.