While the Stettler Lightning Junior Hockey team’s 2015-16 season didn’t go as hoped, with the team eliminated from the post-season, it was a learning year for everyone.
The team, coaching staff, support staff and families gathered at the Stettler Golf Club for their year-end round-up, where the club hands out awards and scholarships, as well as provide an outlook on the year past and year to come.
This year, scholarships were given to players who showed both good work ethics on the ice and in the community as well as in post-secondary or trades study. The scholarships, at $400 each, went to Dylan Houston, Braydan Whiteford, D.J. Kistner, Cody Wright, Trystin Rebman, and Logan Davidson.
The evening was also a chance for the club to bid farewell to its 21-year-old players, who are no longer eligible to play as they’ve aged out.
The team loses Wright, Kistner, Derek Muhlbach and Steve Fletcher.
Coach Gavin Brandl said the night was special, as the players graduating out of the team this year were the last ones that he played with when he played for the Lightning several years ago.
The vast majority of awards went to final-year players, with top scorer and MVP going to Houston, most sportsmanlike going to Muhlbach, best all-around defenceman to Fletcher, best all-around forward to Kieran Rost and unsung hero to Davidson.
Rookie of the year went to Ty Wagner, who, according to Brandl, began hounding the team to find out when tryouts were as soon as he was age-eligible, and took to the ice with dedication and passion.
It’s the first year for Brandl as head coach, as last year was a transition year with general manager and former head coach Doug Smith easing out of the coaching role while mentoring Brandl. This year, Brandl was joined by former players Reese Anheliger and Mark Dietz.
Though Brandl noted everyone was disappointed in how the season turned out, he praised the players for learning with every game, taking what they learned and trying to incorporate it going forward.
“Make no mistake,” he said. “We will have a team ready to compete within the next two years.”
Lightning club president Byron Geddes thanked parents for their involvement this year, running the 50/50 table and otherwise helping out, but noted that with a board of merely five people, and a limited number of volunteers, the club will need to see more involvement in the future.
Treasurer John Morrison spoke also, warning everyone that this season saw the team operating at a loss.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Morrison said, referring to the economy.
Gate fees don’t come close to covering the roughly $70,000 it costs to run the team for a season, and this year sponsorships were down. So long as the currently outstanding sponsorship fees are paid and so long as next year is better, the team should be alright, Morrison said.