The dawn of a new season is here for the Midget AAA Generals as they kick off the 2012-13 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League season in Wilcox on Saturday night against the Notre Dame Hounds.
The Generals are coming off their second straight trip to the League Semifinals and are looking poised for a return trip with a strong group of new players coming in and a small, but solid core of players remaining from last season's run.
"We started off we were a little green with a lot of new faces, but I think we're getting better everyday, so that's encouraging," said Ray Wareham, head coach and general manager of the Genearls.
"A top-four finish is always what we want and we think we have the guys here to do it again and maybe push for a league title, but it's a tough league and a long season and it's a grind, but a top-four finish is definitely what we're looking for."
Just like last year, the Generals will be led by their stellar goaltending tandem of Grant Naherniak and Ryland Pashovitz, but Wareham feels they've added enough skill to the forward group to be a dangerous team this season, "We think we can score a little bit more, our power play the last couple games has looked really good, so hopefully we can continue to improve on that.
"There's going to be an adjustment time for (the new guys) for them to get adjusted to the speed and how to adapt to the league because they're so used to coming from Bantam where they could do whatever they wanted with the puck and now you have to play without, but they're starting to figure it out and real encourgaging signs, so we're looking to get it going."
Up front, this year's team looks more dynamic than any in recent memory for the AAA squad and will be led by second year forward, Rhett Gardner, who was also named team captain this week. He says this year's team is setting up to be a pretty good one, "We have a little more skill than we did last year. Last year, we were a bunch of hard work and grinding guys, so if we can still play that game and have the touch up front, I think we'll have a lot more offence this year than we did last year.
"We're real fast and have lots of skill, so if we can just get our defence settled and play good in our own end, I think we'll be fine in the other team's end."
The Moose Jaw native says he's looking forward to being one of the leaders on this year's team, along with assistants: Ty Vallee, Tanner Davies and Trey Tendler, "I came in here, as a veteran, hoping to be a leader no matter what, whether I was a captain, assistant captain, or nothing, just helping guys out off the ice with whatever they need and helping on the ice with structure."
"They've kind of taking the room over," added Wareham. "The guys seem to really respect them and respond to them, so good on Rhett for taking ownership of the team and he's been with us for the most part a couple years now, so he knows what to expect. It's been positive so far and we're looking for good things from them."
The Generals are in Wilcox on Saturday, 5:00pm puck drop, to open the season and then will have their home opener against the Notre Dame Argos on Sunday afternoon, 1:30pm, at Mosaic Place.