The Whitehorse Huskies will open the Coy Cup tournament this afternoon versus the Smithers Steelheads.
The senior AA hockey club made the 15-hour trip to Terrace, B.C., by coach bus overnight Sunday, arriving in time for a light skate at the Sportsplex last night.
Today’s Huskies-Steelheads game begins at 4 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. contest between the host Terrace River Kings and defending champion Fort St. John Flyers.
The Steelheads recently won the Central Interior Hockey League over the Williams Lake Stampeders.
The Huskies – sponsored by Nuway Crushing Ltd. – enter the four-team tournament at full strength, a notion that thrills head coach Mike Tuton.
“I’m real excited with all the guys that got off the bus and made it down here,” he said this morning. “I’m as happy as I could be with the roster that we’ve got down here.
“Compared to last year, we’ve put ourselves in good shape.”
The club’s top line of Adam Henderson between captain Evan Campbell and Kane Dawe is expected to lead the way after a dominating playoff performance against the Powell River Regals earlier this month.
The second line will be equally dangerous, featuring the Nanook connection of Derek Klassen and Kevin Petovello alongside former QMJHL star Ted Stephens.
The third line will feature Rob Stuckey between Rob Warner and Colin Dendys, with Daniel Cletheroe and Chris Gleason also dressed as extra forwards.
Jared Tuton and Simon Nugent will anchor the blue-line, followed by Gibson Pearson and Kaleb Dawe, then Jon Rudolph, Burt Stephens and Chuck Hombert.
JJ Gainsforth will start tonight’s game, backed up by Brad Gustafson.
Mike Arnold and Ryan Gleason did not make the trip, while university student Joe Densmore may join the team from Victoria later in the week.
Kane Dawe, 25, is a Coy Cup veteran after a stint with the Fort Nelson Yeti in 2014.
“If we play like we did there in Whitehorse on the Sunday, I’m sure we’ll be just fine,” the pesky forward said. “It’s definitely going to be a lot more fun playing with these guys.”
He said playing mystery opponents is all about feeling it out.
“These teams will have a lot more experience on the year because they actually play in a league, but ... it’s senior hockey. Everybody mostly plays the same.”
Terrace, population 12,000, is a former Hockeyville winner in 2009.
Defenceman Jared Tuton said there is a buzz in the city ahead of the Coy Cup playdowns.
“Everyone’s excited to be here,” said Tuton, 30. “It’s like we’re kids again ... and we’re here to win.”
Huskies players were gifted “goodie bags” from a local sports store and will enjoy the luxury of the same dressing room all week, Tuton said.
“So far, it’s been pretty classy.”
The Huskies will face off with the River Kings Wednesday at 7 p.m. followed by a tilt with the Flyers Thursday at 4 p.m.
The semifinals will take place Friday with the Coy Cup champs to be determined Saturday.