TRY OUTS Team White forward Kobe Braham carries the puck into the Team Red zone during a Lloydminster Fountain Tire bantam AAA Bobcats scrimmage at the Robert B. Holmes Memorial Arena on Friday. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO
The Lloydminster Fountain Tire bantam AAA Bobcats head into the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) season with an all-for-one mentality.
Curtis Johnson, head coach of the Bobcats, said an exhaustive five-day search involving individual skill, skating and compete tests, as well as numerous scrimmages has brought them to a 25-man preseason roster of 14 forwards, eight defencemen and two goalies.
He said their main focus at the fall camp was to put a team together, instead of just assembling a group of point producers.
“There has to be a supporting crew for those guys,” said Johnson.
“That’s what we were looking for up front and the same thing on the back end. We can’t have six defencemen who love to jump up in the play.
“We got to have guys who are great defensively, might not be the best offensively-minded type guys, but solid defensively to play against the top lines. So, we’re just trying to put together the right pieces of the puzzle.”
Johnson said the team will be built around returning defenceman Max Mills and forwards Jayven Leslie and Chase Renton.
He said all three players understand what is expected of them in terms of leadership and performance, so the hope is those qualities will rub off on their teammates.
“We’re probably going to be a younger team in the league, which isn’t a bad thing for this year,” he said.
“There are going to be lots of bumps and bruises throughout the season, but I think we have some skill on the back end, skill up front, and then everything in between.”
The Bobcats will get their first chance to see where they stand this Saturday afternoon, when they host a club from the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA).
The team follows the contest with an exhibition series in Edmonton in mid-September before opening the AMBHL regular season on the road against the defending champion Fort Saskatchewan Rangers on Sept. 24.
Johnson said the next three weeks will give the coaching staff a chance to see if the players they’ve chosen to represent the Bobcats are the right ones in terms of continued individual development.
He said the preseason schedule should also give them a good indication of how they’re going to fare on the ice this winter.
“OHA is one of those (Canadian) Sport School League teams, so it’s a big test for us,” said Johnson.
“They’re supposed to come in and kick our butt. That’s what people say, but we’ll see how our team does and the character and the fight we have in us.”