Warriors look to start fresh with new bench boss
After a second round playoff appearance last season, the Saddle Lake Warriors will return to the ice under new management, as former Portage College Voyageurs head coach Terry Ewasiuk will be stepping in as general manager and head coach.
Around 12 players will be returning to the lineup for Saddle Lake this season, and the Warriors will be hosting an open pre-season training camp from Sept. 5-7, where Ewasiuk will have his eye on obtaining some key players to fill in the gaps.
Ewasiuk spent seven seasons as head coach of the Voyageurs, and six with the Grant MacEwan Griffins. In 2000, Ewasiuk coached the Warriors to an NEAJBHL championship, and the 35-year coaching veteran said he is looking forward to getting back behind the bench at Manitou Kihew Arena.
“I think that it should be an exciting year. I enjoy a challenge. I know there are some issues that have to be resolved . . . and I’m used to that. I’m used to coming into programs and helping with the rebuild,” said Ewasiuk, adding that he plans to integrate new systems with the players that have been proven to work with his previous teams.
“It’s going to be new for a lot of these guys, it’s going to take time, so it’s going to be a work in progress, but I think that as the team progresses with the right attitude and the right focus, and once they grasp what I’m trying to teach them I think you’ll see a dramatic improvement.”
Former General Manager Winston Lapatak said that he is pleased with the new changes to the team, which on top of the addition of Ewasiuk include hiring new staff for the team’s board of directors.
“The new president for this upcoming season will be Mr. Louis Lapatak, and the vice president will be Mr. Larry Moosewah, he was the GM the last time we managed to win the league,” said Lapatak, adding that he will be assisting the board in transitioning to new staff. “We're really quite excited about the changes in management, board management as well as the hiring of Terry Ewasiuk.”
Among the returning players will be starting goaltender Dyllon Laboucan, and top scorers Tyler Haineault and Dallas Desjarlais, and Ewasiuk said that he has been working with Lapatak to gain a solid understanding of the current state of the team and its players.
“As the coach at Portage College I only scouted one game in Saddle Lake last year, so I don’t really have a strong dossier on the players, so I’m just going on what Winston has said, and he’s a good hockey guy, he thinks along the same lines as I do and he understands players,” said Ewasiuk. “We had a six-hour meeting where we went over the ghost roster and pinpointed strengths and weaknesses, so I have a pretty good understanding of the players returning, it’s just a matter now of seeing them out on the ice and making my own decisions on what I feel.”
Ewasiuk added that while he plans to build a winning team in Saddle Lake, the fans and the players will have to be patient in the process.
“It would be unrealistic at this point to say a championship. I want to see improvement . . . Obviously you want to finish as high as you can but we also want to make sure that we improve in all areas on the ice. Our goals are going to be more about baby steps leading into the bigger picture, and that would be making the playoffs, and ensuring that we give it our best all the time and are ready,” he said. “You’re not going to turn around a few years of mediocrity in a month or two, it takes time to get the right mindset, the right culture and develop these to the point where the players are starting to believe in themselves, they’re confident and you’ll see major changes in their attitude and the results on the ice.”
The Warriors will be squaring off in a pair of exhibition games against the NEAJBHL’s newest addition, the Onion Lake Jr. Border Chiefs on Sept. 20 in Saddle Lake, and Sept. 21 in Onion Lake.
Ewasiuk said that while he is used to having a longer pre-season, he looks forward to evaluating the players in a game scenario before the season officially starts.
“It’s sort of an evaluation tool. You can skate all you want in a camp but its not anything like games. Even though you do conditioning in the training camp, it’s not until the games happen that you really see the true players,” he said. “As far as exhibition games, two is probably good. I’m used to about six, which gives you a much better idea of what you’ve got, but two is good because it gets the players a little more motivated and you see different aspects of their game when there’s actual body contact.”