Surrey Knights head coach/GM Gerry Leiper talks to players during a PJHL game at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex in September 2019. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Surrey Knights head coach/GM Gerry Leiper talks to players during a PJHL game at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex in September 2019. (File photo: Tom Zillich)


Roster shakeup for Surrey Knights as team starts COVID-modified PJHL season

‘We are definitely much better than last year,’ head coach/GM says

With more new players than returning ones, the Surrey Knights are looking to rebound during the COVID-challenged junior hockey season to come.

Gerry Leiper, the PJHL team’s head coach and general manager, has added 14 players to his 25-strong roster, which includes 11 who have remained with the club after another difficult year in 2019-20.

“We are definitely much better than last year,” Leiper said of his lineup.

“However, I’m not sure how we will fare,” he added. “The target is a moving target. We lost a test 6-1 last week (in an exhibition game against White Rock Whalers on Oct. 10, at Langley Sportsplex). We were solid through half the game but in the end, lost. So we will see.”

The Knights and Whalers are in the same cohort to start the COVID-modified Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season, which got going on Thursday (Oct. 15).

Out of the gate, the PJHL’s four cohorts include one involving the Knights, Whalers, Aldergrove Kodiaks and Ridge Meadows Flames, as part of the league’s revamped 36-game schedule this season.

The Knights’ first game will be played Wednesday, Oct. 21 against Aldergrove Kodiaks, at Aldergrove Credit Union Community Arena, followed by a game against White Rock the next night (Thursday, Oct. 22) at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex.

“We’ve been practicing for a month and a half,” Leiper said. “We are ready.”

At this time, fans are not permitted to attend PJHL games due to current COVID-19 building restrictions.

For each game, Leiper can ice a maximum roster of nine forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, with another eights players available when injuries and illness call for additional help. “Starting soon we will be allowed to go 12 forwards, but probably not until November.”

The team’s full roster is posted to

Returning players include forwards Ayodeji Ajayi, Dion Fowler, Mitchell MacLeod, Brandon Melsness, Dayton Milligan and Drew Williams, defensemen Bradley Collins, Edward Ridell, Ben Wasmuth and Sam Wasmuth, and goaltender Jarek Blackmon.

“We traded for Ethan Gourley and Montaro Uyeyama from Delta Ice Hawks. Both are skilled guys who can score,” Leiper said.

“But before them I added the Thompson brothers (Owen and Jacob), who are 19 and 16 years old,” he added. “Once I added them, everything started coming our way. All the players on our wish list started checking in with us.”

Leiper compared the Thompsons to Daniel and Henrik Sedin for their playmaking abilities. “Great kids to boot,” he said.

Also added to the roster were Darian Tamas and Owen Thibodeau, from Semiahmoo and Cloverdale minor hockey associations.

“Tamas is excellent on D,” Leiper said. “And Thibodeau is super fast, with the hardest snap shot on the team.”

Nickolas Rota was also added from the Ice Hawks (“a slick offensive defenseman who is fast, shifty and gritty tough,” Leiper noted). “Another good add for us was Anton Shopoval from Semi AAA – a skilled, fast forward who is gonna light it up,” he added. “And Logan Earle from New West is another 16-year-old who is a skilled rushing defenseman we added.”

Blackmon is back in goal, with help from rookies Rahul Sharma and Benjamin Skulski.

• RELATED STORY, from February 2020: Surrey Knights find positives as one-win season comes to a close.

Last February, the Knights finished the 2019-20 season with just a single win, and have just a handful of victories since moving to Surrey from Langley in the fall of 2016.

Last fall, the franchise vacated the old North Surrey Arena for a move into the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex. The team looked for better results on the ice, but the wins didn’t come.

“I can’t recall the exact number,” Leiper noted last February, “but it’s 14 or 15 games this year that were a one-goal loss for us, so if we had just one more guy to put the puck in, and we win even 50 per cent of those games, that’s a game-changer for us.”

To start the PJHL season, teams will only be allowed to play games against the other teams in their cohort for the first half of the season. In December, the league will break for the required 14-day quarantine period, then the cohorts will be shuffled for the remainder of the season.

The PJHL’s Cohort #1 will involve Grandview Steelers, Port Moody Panthers and Richmond Sockeyes, Cohort #2 includes Abbotsford Pilots, Chilliwack Jets and Mission City Outlaws, and Cohort #3 will be Delta Ice Hawks, Langley Trappers and North Vancouver Wolf Pack.

Schedules for each cohort will be posted on as they become available.

League commissioner Trevor Alto said the PJHL takes great pride in its return-to-play plan. “It has been a collaborated effort involving our governing bodies, municipalities, facilities, other user groups, and our players and staff,” Alto said in the website post. “Our teams have put in a lot of work getting us to this point, and we are very excited that we are able to get the season underway.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Junior B Hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shortly after he was sworn in, Surrey mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition passed a motion to cancel a planned light rail system to Langley. (File photo: Amy Reid)
LETTER: Vote them all out in 2022

Reader says the next election can’t come soon enough

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey school district sends out 16 exposure notices overnight

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

White Rock City Hall (Peace Arch News photo)
City of White Rock’s new anti-racism policy aims to create ‘inclusive’ environment

‘There is still more for us to do,’ says Mayor Darryl Walker

A 2019 photo of the site of what is now The Cove Shelter, which is operated by Surrey Urban Mission Society. Crews were working inside of this corner unit just days before it officially opened. (File photo: Lauren Collins)
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Surrey shelter as 17 people test positive

SUMS executive director says ‘it’s a group that we really have to work hard to protect’

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read