By Craig Stein
STRONG CROP OF RETURNEES IN HUMBOLDT
For the first time since the 2013-2014 season, the Humboldt Broncos will have the same coach behind the bench as they finished the previous season with, as Darcy Haugen gets set for his second season of duty.
Haugen says the comfort level is a whole lot higher compared to this time a year ago, when he arrived just prior to the season after Ryan Smith was hired to join the Swift Current Broncos’ staff.
“Actually knowing the players I have in camp before it starts is a real plus! (Dean Brockman and Ryan Smith) were obviously a couple tremendous coaches who’ve moved on and now it’s great to have to some continuity as a staff. Last year we found out who wants to be a Bronco, be a part of the rebuild process and right now everything looks and feels a whole lot better.”
The Broncos saw an unprecedented streak of 35 years in the playoffs get snapped a year ago, but they appear ready to get used to playoff appearances again, as they see a strong contingent of returnees back at all positions, and made some key acquisitions over the off season, some of which coming from future considerations deals made to get younger throughout last season.
Humboldt shouldn’t have trouble scoring goals this year, as their entire top line is back. Logan Schatz led the team in assists (45) and points (56) as an 18-year-old, and could easily be among the favourites to win a scoring title. It’s expected he’ll be flanked by the same wingers he ended last year with. 20-year-old Tyler Posch adds the rugged element, and a scoring touch, hitting the 20-goal plateau last year. And after arriving in a trade from Weyburn for Jarrett Fontaine, Chris Van Os-Shaw was one of the most dangerous forwards in the league, putting up 10 goals and 22 points in 16 games as a Bronco.
“Those guys want to be top tier players in this league,” said Coach Haugen. “There’s some maturing that has to happen as players, but I think they’re up for the challenge and we’ll be counting on them to produce.”
If that trio does in fact remain intact, Daniel McKitrick, whose 22 goals led the way a year ago, will be a good start on the second line. Michael Korol is also back as a 19-year-old, as is Laramie Kostelansky. Newcomers up front will include Luke Kempf, a 20-year-old who should add sandpaper after racking up 300 penalty minutes over his last two seasons in Sherwood Park (AJHL), former Steinbach Piston (MJHL) Matthieu Gomercic who had 10 goals and 23 points a year ago, and B.C. product Dante Raposo.
Connor Swystun returns for a fourth and final season of junior and should anchor the Broncos’ blue line. Swystun had a career-best 7-goals and 19-poitns last year.
In goal, the Broncos welcome 20-year-old Garrett Mason from the AJHL. He split time between Drayton Valley, Spruce Grove and Whitecourt last season, combining to post a 21-10-5 record, 2.35 GAA, .918% and five shutouts. Mason joins returnee Carter Seminuk in the crease.