SURREY — Thirteen games into Pacific Junior Hockey League season, things are more than just unlucky for Surrey Knights.
The Junior B team is still winless during its current campaign, the first for the Knights at North Surrey Recreation Centre following a move from Langley over the summer.
The team’s single point came in a 6-5 overtime loss on home ice to Port Moody Panthers back on Sept. 29, seven games into the season.
Since then, the Knights have gone “O” for October, with losses and goals against starting to pile up.
Last week, the Knights suffered identical 5-1 setbacks to Delta (in Ladner on Oct. 18) and Grandview (at home on Oct. 20).
Jeevan Dosange scored the Knights’ lone goal on the road against the Ice Hawks, while Shaun Simpson netted one versus the Steelers in North Surrey.
The Knights have now had a full week to practice, with a return to action Thursday (Oct. 27) in Richmond against the Sockeyes.
Head coach Paul Whintors has had some work to do with his rookie-laden roster.
“The biggest thing for us is we’re young, right,” Whintors told the Now. “You look at all the other rosters and we’re the youngest team in the league, so when that happens, you have significantly more guys coming out of minor hockey, and junior’s different than minor. So you put those kids together, a lot of it is adjusting to the speed and the skill level that they’ve never even been close to before.”
Offensively, forward Blake McCulloch has led the way with eight goals and two assists, while rookies Casey Whintors – the coach’s 16-year-old son – and Jin Woo Lee have each added three goals and three assists.
On the defensive side, goaltenders Jeevan Bains and Robert Nawrot are both rookies, as are most of the skaters on the blue line, including Simpson, Keilan Toews, Joe Woykin and Kurtis Kapitza.
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Knights GM Amar Gill isn’t afraid to call this a “development year” for the team, and he’s preaching patience.
“It’s a regrouping, a rebuilding, I guess you can call it,” he said Monday (Oct. 24). “We have a lot of rookies in the lineup, double digits this year, and a few returning guys. But one thing I don’t do is buy players, I just won’t do it. I like to develop within, so we’re going to continue to do that with the players we have.”
A lot of the Knights’ “kids” wouldn’t get a chance to play on other PJHL teams, he said.
“I know it hurts not winning games, for the fans and the players and everyone, but we’ve been competing, and I see that, the compete in the players,” Gill added. “Are we a couple guys short? For sure we are, and we’re looking for a couple guys who can bury the puck. Sometimes it just takes two or three guys to come in and change the dressing room and change the performance on the ice, and we’re working on that, via trades that have happened and will continue to happen.”
With all the losing, it’s no surprise the Knights sit in last place in the 10-team PJHL, which is led by Grandview’s 22 points in 15 games played.
Coach Whintors is stressing the importance of mental preparation among his players, along with team-building exercises.
“That’s crucial for a new bunch of guys,” Whintors said of the latter, “and there’s more laughter and friendships getting tighter every day.
“Every game for us is a winnable one, we just have to harness that mental competition side of the game, that mental toughness, and if we can start learning and playing with that a little more, we’ll start surprising some teams come early November.”
Following the Knights’ game in Richmond on Thursday, the team plays in Port Moody on Saturday (Oct. 29) followed by a return to North Surrey Recreation Centre against Delta on Thursday, Nov. 3, starting at 7:45 p.m. Game tickets and more team info can be found at Surreyknights.ca.