Surrey Knights have started another hockey season with goals that include making the playoffs with a team loaded with rookies and some raw talent.
“We have some specific internal goals, and some of that is just telling the guys to be the best they can be every single time they hit the ice,” explained Andy Liboiron, second-year head coach of the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) squad.
“Ultimately our goal is to make the playoffs and make a push,” he added. “I know that might sound ambitious to some, but we believe it’s extremely attainable and the guys have put in hard work, so it’s one step at a time.”
In the Knights’ season-opener Sunday (Sept. 11), they fell 4-2 in Chilliwack against the Jets, with Surrey goals from Nabeel Moledina and Jake Thompson. In net, Mason Upton made 38 saves on 42 shots.
Up next for the Knights is the team’s home-opener Thursday (Sept. 15) against White Rock Whalers, at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex starting at 7 p.m.
This season the Knights aim to be better than last, when the team finished with four wins, 39 losses and one shootout loss.
Over the summer, general manager Gerry Leiper got busy signing several players from North Delta, Surrey and Langley.
“Staying local was a focus for us, bringing in a tight-knit group and keep it close to home,” Liboiron noted. “We have a bunch of great kids, and to see that many local guys tick that ‘great character’ box is important to us.”
The Knights roster is posted to surreyknights.ca, along with game stats and the PJHL schedule.
On Aug. 23 the team announced Brad Collins, a 2002-born defenceman, as captain for the 2022-23 season. “Brad is going into his 6th season with the Knights, where he’ll break the record for most games played in franchise history,” the team tweeted.
Three former Knights captains – Billy Thompson, Drew Williams and Evan Purewal – presented Collins with his new ‘C’ jersey.
Last Sunday in Chilliwack, the Knights were without recent arrivals Owen Blyth, Aidan McFarlane and Mattias Seganfreddo on defense, due to what Liboiron called “a paperwork thing” with the league. “So we were shorthanded a little bit,” he said, and “we couldn’t get them into the lineup, and they’ll be three of our key defensemen this year.”
In exhibition play, the Knights won their first game of the preseason, 5-3 in Port Moody on Aug. 27, then lost three.
“The preseason was great for us and showed a lot of promise,” Liboiron said. “There were some learning lessons, and we do have a young group here. One of the lessons is playing with a lead. In White Rock, we were down and stormed back to tie it 5-5, so that showed we can be a resilient group. Hopefully we learn from those lessons and apply them to the regular season here.”
• RELATED STORY, from 2021: Knights’ rookie head coach aims to bring winning vibe to hockey team that has really struggled.