Did we speak too soon?
Just days after our article about Valley West Hawks closing in on breaking the BCMML’s goal-scoring record, the team announced that leading scorer Arshdeep Bains will be joining the Red Deer Rebels for the rest of the season.
That isn’t a problem for coach Rob Evers, who would rather focus on winning while graduating players to the next level, rather than breaking goal records.
“Since the beginning of the season, Arshdeep bought into everything we were doing and he did it to the best of his ability,” said Evers. “We’re super happy that he was able to make the jump.”
Surrey’s Bains was a force on the ice for the Hawks during his 22 games with the club. With 41 assists and 57 points, he led the league in both categories.
“It sucks that he’s gone, but it’s something that we’ll deal with,” Evers said. “We’re not a one-player team. We’ll survive without him.”
Bains, Nolan Krogfoss and Max Mohagen have all been an absolute force for the Hawks throughout the season. Both Bains and Krogfoss still sit atop the leaderboard for points in the BCMML. Mohagen isn’t far off at 11th overall.
It’s not the first time that Bains tried to crack the Rebels roster. He went to their training camp before the 2017-18 season kicked off, but Evers said he was sent back to the Hawks because the WHL team wanted to see more out of the 16-year-old.
“When he came to us, the feedback from them was that he wasn’t physically ready to play at that level,” said Evers. “They wanted to see more consistency.”
Based on the year Bains has had, it’s hard to find any faults in his game.
He earned a call-up to the Red Deer Rebels with the team missing rookie Kristian Reichel, who is representing the Czech Republic at the World Juniors.
Evers, at first, believed that Bains would be a temporary replacement for the departed Reichel, but Rebels head coach Brent Sutter decided it was best if Bains stuck with the team full-time.
It hasn’t been a banner year for the Rebels, who have just one win in their last 16 games. They will be hoping that Bains can make an impact in the early going.
As for the Hawks, they are short-staffed with both Bains, and former Vancouver Giant Hunor Torzsok, gone from the team. Torzsok joined the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL earlier in December.
Clippers lose 9-4. Hunor Torzsok gets his first goal as a Nanaimo Clipper. pic.twitter.com/qfYMSBuBAd— Nanaimo Clippers (@ClippersHockey) December 10, 2017
Despite being one of the highest-scoring teams in league history through the first half of the season, the Hawks are short-staffed heading into the international MAC’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament. The annual tournament kicks off right when the World Junior Hockey Championships start, on Boxing Day.
The Hawks will travel to Calgary on Christmas day, looking to make the tournament playoffs for the first time in team history.
Evers said they are looking to add two more players, although they will just take affiliates for the time being if they can’t permanently fill the slots before then.
The tournament features major midget teams from Canada, the United States, and Europe, with the top four BCMML teams joining each year.
Last year, Belarus’ U17 team left the tournament as champions.
While that might surprise some people, Evers wasn’t surprised about their success.
“You’re talking about an entire country bringing over players,” he said. “A lot of those countries overseas are setting up right for the future.”
Teams from the BCMML have had success in recent memory. The Cariboo Cougars won in 2014, and the Vancouver NW Giants won in both 2009 and 2012.
In the 25-team tournament, the Hawks have never qualified for the eight-team playoff. They were a couple of goals and an overtime short of making it during their last go-round, and Evers is setting a goal for his club this year.
“Our goal this year is for us to make this the first time we’ve made it to the playoff round,” he said. “It’s going to be a big eye-opener for us early on, especially since we’ll be playing against good teams every night.”