Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rebels Hand Out Awards Tonight

The disappointment of the KIJHL finals will still linger for a while, but tonight Castlegar can focus on the positives of a remarkable season when the team hands out their individual awards.

The Rebels set a franchise record with 42 victories this season and advanced to their first league championship series in 15 years. I've been told the attendance figure of 1,110 for Saturday's Game 6 was the highest total since the 1980s, which if true is incredible.

Tonight, though, it's all about the players, several of whom won't be returning to Castlegar next season (and for good reason). Ryan Aynsley is off to Northern Michigan, while Anthony DeLong will skate at Central Oklahoma next fall. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see more college commitments come down the line soon.

Overagers Darren Tarasoff, Mike Wiest and Erik Wentzel will also move on after lengthy junior careers (both Tarasoff and Wentzel spent time in the BCHL and SJHL respectively before returning to Castlegar while Wiest was acquired from Fernie midway through the season). All four twenty year-olds were great leaders this season.

Unfortunately for Wiest, injuries hampered his time during the playoffs, but when healthy, the Albertan was a rock on the blueline. Even though he wasn't expected to return during the post-season, Wiest stayed in town and remained as integral a part of the team as possible.

Tarasoff logged tons of minutes on the back end all season (especially during the finals when the Rebels had only 5 regular blue-liners in the lineup for much of the series), and was a great mentor to Castlegar's younger blue-liners. Never the loudest player on the ice, Tarasoff is a smooth skater who should definitely get a look at the college level (in my opinion), be it in Canada or the United States.

Up front, Aynsley was a different player after returning from his stint in Trail. He logged more minutes on the PK, and was a more ferocious fore-checker which will come in handy during his next four years as a Wildcat.

Wentzel caught my attention right from camp, mainly because he hit everything that moved. Not only that, the Kelowna product put the puck in the net too, notching one hat-trick this season against the Nelson Leafs. He provided plenty of grit to Castlegar's forward ranks and was a quality leader off the ice as well.

DeLong, who still has one year of junior eligibility left, will do well in Oklahoma City. Like Wentzel, Tarasoff and Aynsley, he had Junior A experience (and was a teammate of Tarasoff's with Williams Lake last year), but came to Castlegar to bolster the offense. DeLong played a lot of the year on a line with Stuart Walton and Tyler Robinson, and his net-crashing style and finesse complemented Walton's passing ability and Robinson's grit tremendously.

Jon Zacks
reported earlier this week that Jesse Knowler has committed to Trail (BCHL) for next season. The newly-minted 17 year-old scored 8 goals during the playoffs, finishing 5th in team scoring during the post-season. I'd be surprised if more Rebels weren't able to crack Junior A rosters next year as well.

Stay tuned to the blog for a full recap of tonight's awards dinner, I'll try to wrangle up some tape from Aynsley, Wentzel, Tarasoff and head coach Steve Junker that Jonny put together for his Overtime show earlier this week, in case you missed it.

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