"We're very happy with how we did last season," said Head Coach and General Manager Mike Reagan after his club made the SJHL Finals for the first time in 23 years. "But to say that we accomplished our goals is untrue."
The Bombers were two wins away from their first SJHL Championship in over two decades when they were defeated by the Melfort Mustangs on home ice, and had to watch the visiting team celebrate their second consecutive Canalta Cup, that resonated with long time Bomber coach.
"That stung," added Reagan. "We over came so much last season, in the beginning especially, and to come that far and watch another team raise the cup at the Whitney Forum, that stung."
Last year's club went 6-10-4 to start the season before they turned it around midway through November, finishing up third in the Sherwood Division with a 34-20-0-4 record and sixth place overall in the league.
Now from that team, a sense of optimism to start the 2016-17 season.
"I think we're further ahead then we were last year to start," commented Reagan. "Even with the loss of our top three, we have a great nucleus to start."
The nucleus starts in the pipes and goes out. The team returns 16 players from last years run including both netminders in 1996 born Zac Robidoux (Winnipeg, MB) and 1997 born Brendan Newton (Medicine Hat, AB). Pushing them will be 1997 born Dakota Delbridge (Tracy, CA).
The blueline sees seven returning defenseman with 1996 born Joseph Leonidas (Calgary, AB), Brandon Masson (Oak Lake, MB), Mason Etter (Cedarburg, WI) and Braden Lacoursiere (Unity, SK) leading the way. Also back are Rylan Tkachuk (Boyle, AB), Ben Lanfermann (Paradise Hill, SK) and Corey Thomas (St. Brieux, SK) who will add some much gained experience in the playoff run to the club this season. The team will start with a pair of rookies in former Flin Flonner Issac Jackson (Warman, SK) and import Trent Hines (Fort Collins, CO).
Upfront the team did lose their top three goal scorers in Alex Smith, Joel Kocur and Brandon Switzer, but Reagan feels that returning players like Jason Lavallee (Thetford MInes, QC) and Rylee Zimmer (Russell, MB) can pick up the offense. Add to that Greyson Reitmeier (Naksup, BC), who is poised for a break out season, and newly acquired Dondre Watson (Calgary, AB) who scored 27 goals in the AJHL last season.
Second year forwards Brandon Lesko (Hafford, SK) and Nicholas Shumlanski (Tisdale, SK) should improve on their rookies numbers from last season.
Third year player Kristian St. Onge (Saskatoon, SK) broke out last season, putting up 26 points (12g, 14a) after finishing with five the season before, should continue his point improvement.
Add to that 26 games from Tyler Millar (Vermillion, AB) and the forward corp has a lot of experience leading the way this season.
Aside from Watson, the team will also start with seven new faces, all of them rookies except for
second year forward Keegan Matthew (Aurora, ON)who was acquired from the Aurora Tigers of the OJHL.
The team will start the season like they did in 2015, with a home and home series against the Nipawin Hawks before a home and home next weekend against the La Ronge Ice Wolves.