Quick Shift, which provides a preview of each of the 20 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League teams, with insights from their respective general manager/head coach heading into the regular season, wraps up with the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the Doug Birks Division. The Grizzlies won their division with a record of 30-7-3-4 and lost in the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference Final to Princeton. They hosted the Cyclone Taylor Cup and won the B.C. Junior B championship against Kimberley. Grizzlies Associate Coach Jiri Novak answered questions about the team.
Did you have a good off-season of recruiting?
We feel we have brought in the right pieces who will be able to prove their abilities in the KIJHL. The players have worked and are making the adjustment from Midget to Junior hockey.
Jake Neufeld, a forward, brings speed and we have been trying him in different positions from what he played last season. He’s progressed during exhibition and I like how he’s open to receiving and absorbing new information. Neufeld, 17, played two games as an affiliate with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles in 2021-22. (Calgary Northstars U18 AAA – 25 points in 38 games last season)
Kuy Schmirler is a big kid (6-1, 178 pounds) who plays a heavy game and has a good shot. That’s what we like in our program, guys who can skate, be physical and find the net. (BHA Rangers U18 AA – 46 points in 29 games/Calgary Buffaloes U18 AAA – four points in six games last season)
Kyle Federico is the cousin of former captain Raymond Speerbrecker, so he is familiar with our organization. At 6-3, 185 pounds, Federico brings physical play and is a big defenceman who can skate. I look forward to seeing how he can support our offence as a defenceman.(Calgary Flames U18 AAA – eight points in 30 games last season)
What do you like about the group of players returning who will play a big part on your team?
We don’t have many returning players, but I believe we have the right ones. They know what it takes to win having been part of our KIJHL Teck Cup championship team and Cyclone Taylor Cup-winning team. I’m looking forward to seeing how they will share this experiece with younger players and make them better.
Daniel Wittenberg, who put up 25 points in 42 games and played for Team KIJHL in BCHC Prospects Game last season, put work in during the offseason and arrived in better shape. We will rely on him more and he can step up as a great leader. He plays physical and I know he can score.
Jozef Kuchaslo (KIJHL Top Goalie) will help with our younger defenceman. He’s the same as Wittenberg in that he stood out during the exhibition games and will be a good leader. Kuchaslo is going into his third season and has 27 career wins in 42 KIJHL regular season games and has 10 wins in 14 playoff games.
Brady Schwab is more quiet in the room, but leads by example. He’s a really smart player and is calm. He will play a role in helping the younger guys learn what it takes to play junior hockey.
What were some key areas of success achieved last season that the organization wants to build on?
We wanted to repeat as KIJHL Teck Cup champs and win the Cyclone Taylor Cup. We won the CTC with motivation from our loss to Princeton. I believe this year we will be even hungrier than last year.