The New and Improved
The smell of the ice is in the air as the Spartans hockey club prepares for a promising season this year. In the previous three seasons of Spartans hockey the team has been mediocre at best. Their best year was the inaugural year of Spartans hockey back in 2010-2011 when they recorded a 12-15-2 record.
In the years after they have completely dropped the ball. The Spartans finished with a 5-17-6 record in 2011-2012, and a 6-21-0 record last season. Changes were certainly needed to turn this team around.
The most significant change to the team was undoubtedly the hiring of the new bench boss. Barret Kropf will be the new head coach for Spartans hockey after the firing of the previous coach, Dwayne Lowdermilk.
Kropf, who is currently finishing up his career as a chaplain for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, has much experience in coaching hockey with almost two decades of coaching experience in a variety of leagues. Kropf was also the Alberta Collages Athletic Conference men’s hockey coach of the year with Briercrest College in 2005-2006.
“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to build onto the program,” Kropf says. “Excitement is the key thing for me and I’m looking forward to the season.”
The hiring of Kropf allows a fresh atmosphere for the team, something that was greatly needed. During the past few seasons, Lowdermilk and the team did not ever seem to be on the same page. The team lacked communication and leadership from Lowdermilk, which are both key to a winning team.
With Kropf showing a high skill of leadership in the past, the team is bound to improve under him.
“Accountability is key,” Kropf says. “We need to be making sure the guys are putting in their time they need to in the classroom, weight room, and the film room.”
There were also significant changes up front in the roster. Forwards JP Villeneuve, Josh Bruha, and Andrew Wheeler were added to the mix.
Villeneuve, a veteran of Junior “A” level hockey, quickly raised eyebrows when he decided to join the Spartans. Villeneuve is bringing elite skill with him, coming from a very impressive season with the Powell River Kings of the BCHL, recording 37 points in 52 games.
"JP is a player who is intense on both sides of the ice. He's got offensive talents and he takes cares of his own zone," Kropf says. “Everyone can look up to him.”
Bruha is also a good addition as he brings a good two-way game. He is a veteran in this level of hockey as he spent the last four years playing for Notre Dame in Saskatchewan. He also brings a lot of grit and toughness with 168 penalty minutes in 109 games in the SJHL.
Wheeler brings experience from playing in the NCAA for the University of New England. The 6-foot-2, 195 pound winger certainly brings size to the team along with his playmaking skill.
The Spartans also added Swiss goaltender Silas Matthys. Matthys is a highly touted goalie who joins a competitive training camp for the starter position. With his experience in European leagues, and his great work ethic, it looks like he could be a frontrunner.
The Spartans simply can’t get any worse than last season, which would be completely unacceptable. There is nowhere to go but up at this point. With the changes on and behind the bench it is very likely that we will see the team improve.
Of course, a .500 record is an enormous improvement considering how this team performed in the past, and that is what I expect. Here’s to hoping they reach that goal so TWU can get excited for hockey again.
The Spartans will open the season October 4 at Thompson River University. They will have their home opener on October 18 against Eastern Washington at the Langley Events Center.