By Raymond Fitzgerald
The Big Valley Oil Kings hope to change their course in the 2013-14 senior hockey season.
After a rebuilding year last season, the Oil Kings are not only looking to go deeper in the playoffs, but also to establish themselves as contenders, said coach Scott Schell.
The Oil Kings had a 4-13-3 record last season and were swept in the first round of the Battle River Hockey League playoffs.
After analyzing last season’s roster, depth was identified as the team’s main shortcoming, Schell said.
“There were times when we played with two lines and some extras — due to work and school commitments — and that seriously limits the style any team can successfully play.”
Team president Ryan Pietrucki and GM Dustin Edwards plan to shore up the roster and add scoring depth.
“We kind of put our name on the map last season,” Edwards said. “This off-season is looking real promising, instead of us having to go out and find players, they are approaching us.
“Once we have commitments from the prospective players, we look a lot deeper, not only roster-wise, but also in scoring, too.”
The Oil Kings have a solid core to build around this season with the return of Landon Jones, the BRHL defenceman of the year, along with Stettler native Chance Clark in net.
The defensive core is mostly intact, and includes locals Danny Houston and Denver Wik.
“It’s great to have such a solid defensive group from the net out, but we are fortunate to also have a solid group up front returning,” Schell said.
Captain Brett Muhlbach leads the way, along with linemates Devon Shanks and Dave Skagen, the team reported. Other locals returning are Mitch Finkbinder, Brett Ouellette, Justin Tremmel and Brett Nixon.
In addition, Oil Kings sniper Matt Schmermund (seven goals and 11 points in six games) looks to return to an even bigger role this season.
Reed Linaker, armed with AJHL and NCAA experience, is among the Big Valley newcomers.
“Reed is a dynamic hockey player,” Schell said. “He loves to control the game. The play seems to flow through him. Really, he’s a difference-maker.”
Castor’s Sean Neumeier, a former AJHL skater, plans to don the Oil Kings’ black and silver silks.
“Sean just adds to our character,” Schell said. “He’s so strong on the puck. He’s a gamer. Even though he’s committed to coach the (junior B) Blackfalds Wranglers, those competitive juices (to play) are still flowing.”
The Oil Kings stage a one-day camp Sept 29, with ice times from 3 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. at Big Valley Agri-plex.