The Lethbridge Hurricanes are into their final week of exhibition hockey.
The Hurricanes are 0-3 in pre-season play so far and have been outscored 18-4 in those games, but to this point, the Hockey Operations staff still hasn't cut the roster down. The Canes host Medicine Hat tonight (September 14) at 7:00 pm at Nicholas Sheran Arena and then travel on Friday and Saturday to the Crowsnest Pass to play Calgary and Kootenay in Coleman. The regular season begins next Saturday, September 24th in Medicine Hat.
I spoke with Head Coach and G.M. Rich Preston about the pre-season so far and about the acquisition of goaltender Damien Ketlo.
Pat: Three pre-season games to go Rich and still no cuts in the roster. What are you guys as coaches looking for in these last exhibition games?
Preston: "We're still evaluating our young kids. Along with those players we still have Soffilas and Tot, veterans who haven't played any games and aren't cleared to play yet, so this is evaluation time mostly for those 16 and 17 year olds. You get a good read on them by the time exhibition is done. We'll know who's ready to play."
Pat: Rich, I think people might assume that bringing in an overage goalie, and with three other 20 year olds on the team that means Fyten or Sutter might not be coming back from pro camps. That's not necessarily the case is it?
Preston: No it's not. We have no idea who's coming back, but you never know. With Ketlo, obviously getting Sutter back he'd be one of our 20 year olds along with Fyten and Braes. Those three guys would be our 20 year olds, so if that happens then Damien knows the situation. We'd have to move him, but we don't know what happening with the 20's and we need another goalie right now. Our only goaltender is Tanner Kovacs with Anderson away and Jonny Hogue has been backing up and playing a bit the last couple of games, but he's only 15 and he's got to get back and try to make his AAA midget team so that's got to be his focus. We have to have another goalie in here and we're lucky to have Ketlo, he's a good goalie in this league. We'll see where this goes."
Pat: Despite the pre-season losses, did you like anything you saw from some of the young players?
Preston: "You know there's probably a dozen guys who played their first Western Hockey League game last Thursday in Taber and a lot of them played three in three nights too. That helps us get a read on some guys and how they can handle that. Sam McKechnie has been really good. He's a good penalty killer and good on face-offs and Jaimen Yakubowski just to name a few. As for the 16 year olds, Erkamps has been really good, along with Topping, Leverton, Merkley, and Watson. We can't keep all five, but we've given them every opportunity to make the team and they've shown signs the can stay here. There's lots for us to consider including their size and if they can take the physical pounding, if they're mentally ready."
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