By Craig Stein
WINDLE TAKES OVER BEHIND THE BENCH
After 12 seasons as Coach & GM of the Melville Millionaires, Jamie Fiesel’s contract was not renewed after the Millionaires missed the playoffs in 2015-2016.
The Millionaires are going a new direction, hiring 28-year-old Devin Windle, after the Alberta product spent the past two seasons on Doug Johnson’s staff with the Nipawin Hawks.
“(Johnson) was a huge mentor,” said Windle, prior to embarking on his rookie head coaching season in Melville. “He taught me the junior game, and the little details it took to be a GM and run an organization. It’s the off-ice details too, like having some life balance, and being a pro. You’re not just a pro in the office or on the bench, we’re expected to professionals from morning to night.”
Joining Windle on the bench will be a new face to the SJHL, in Mark Chase. The B.C. product had worked with, and came highly recommended by Kindersley Klippers Coach/GM Geoff Grimwood. The mainstay will be long-time trainer Dave Melnychuk, and Windle says it’s nice to maintain some stability.
“Melly knows the history, the tradition. As a staff we don’t want to forget any of that, it’s a good mix, and a way to blend the way it was with a fresh perspective. And while (former Assistant Coach & Assistant GM) Neil (Lamberty) is no longer with the team on staff, he’s really been a great sounding board since I’ve been here.”
On the ice, there’s sure to be new faces as well. Teal Sobkowicz comes over from the Melfort Mustangs as part of the trade that sent Carter Hansen and Kirk Bear to Melfort at last season’s deadline. Sobkowicz, now 20, won back to back Canalta Cups with the Mustangs and a Telus Cup with the Prince Albert “AAA” Mintos before that. Windle noted his character, and expects him to take on a leadership role.
Tyler Kreklewich and Keegan Milligan highlight some of the returnees up front, while the likes of Christian Stevens, Cole Filler and Jake Tesarowski all opted for the North American Hockey League.
Headlining the newcomers will be 19-year-old forward Mathieu Jallabert, who had 46 points (18g-28a) in 38 games playing Junior ‘B’ with the VIJHL’s Oceanside Generals in B.C. last season. Windle says he sees similarities between Jallabert and former Nipawin Hawk Garrett Dunlop. High praise, consider Dunlop also came over as a 19-year-old and won Rookie Of The Year in the league, and followed that up with an 80 point season a year ago.
A big boost to Melville’s blue line sees Chance Patterson get reassigned from the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. Patterson played two seasons of major junior, and Windle expects the 6-foot-3 blue liner to be a reliable shutdown guy.
Windle also liked what he saw out of returning goalie Brandon Wells during camp and the pre-season, saying he’s a big, athletic goaltender who appears ready to become one of the top tier tenders in the SJHL. The Millionaires also got down to two goalies early in camp, with 18-year-old Colby Entz ready to take the backup job, after playing “AAA” Midget in Moose Jaw.