(From left) Thunder Cats camp participant Everett Hicks

(From left) Thunder Cats camp participant Everett Hicks

KIJHL: Creston Valley Thunder Cats gearing up for exhibition games

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About 30 players, including returning and committed players, remain out of 70 hopefuls who tried out for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats at the weekend’s main training camp.

They’re now in the middle of a busy week, getting in top form for Sunday’s 7 p.m. intrasquad game before hosting the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Tuesday, the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Wednesday and the Fernie Ghostriders on Sept. 4 for exhibition games.

Head coach Jeff Dubois said the three-day camp was a success, with 20 more players competing than in 2014.

“It went really well, both in terms of the turnout … and in terms of the actual caliber of the guys on the ice,” he said. “The vast majority of the guys on the ice were guys who are going to play junior hockey.”

Five of those trying out for Creston’s Kootenay International Junior Hockey League team came from the Creston Valley Minor Hockey Association’s midget rep team.

“It’s a chance for them to get a foot in the door, and get an affiliation, and maybe get a taste of junior hockey,” said Dubois.

One Creston Valley 16-year-old, Brody Ryan — a forward who has played for the last two years at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy — was asked to join the team at the end of the camp, beating out other prospects before the coaching staff saw him in exhibition games.

“Brody was our top ranked 16-year-old among the coaching staff,” said Dubois. “He earned the spot.”

If cutting 70 players down to 30 — and from there to a maximum of 23 — seems like a challenge, it is.

“There was a lot of debate among our staff about the guys we were cutting,” said Dubois.

But those 70 had survived an earlier cut themselves, having been pared down from about 250 who came to Thunder Cats recruiting camps in Vancouver and Calgary over the summer.

And just because 40 didn’t make it this time doesn’t mean they have no future with the Thunder Cats.

“Now we’ll have the opportunity to track them and keep in touch during the season,” said Dubois. “It’s a really good opportunity to get the pipeline going for future seasons.”