Steve Robinson has been busier on the phone of late than his hockey team has been on the ice.
The Delta Ice Hawks general manager and head coach wheeled and dealed his way through a new Pacific Junior Hockey League roster wrinkle that sees all teams have their number of player cards reduced to 25 beyond Dec. 1.
Three trades and a re-assignment later, Robinson got his roster trimmed to 22, providing flexibility to add more players in the weeks ahead.
First-year blueliners Cash Dumka-Jones and Matthew Wise were dealt to Ridge Meadows for the rights to 17-year-old d-man Calean Mander. Forward Max Kovlach is now a member of the White Rock Whalers while Dylan Garland was sent to Aldergrove for 18-year-old forward Luke Mongrain. His final move was rookie netminder Jacob Zillich’s playing rights going back to his minor hockey team while he will continue to practice with the Hawks behind veteran Marek Erickson and Zach Shaughnessy.
“We were already at 25 so we could have just stayed put, but then I would have had no ability to add, so within that, my internal goal was to get down to 22 or 23 cards to give myself at least the flexibility to add necessarily where we don't have to subtract again,” explained Robinson.
“Mander was a kid I tried to sign in the summer who played in a July 1 tournament for us. And Mongrain is a kid I tried to acquire when he was in Princeton a couple of years ago. One thing we looked at was our composition and being so heavy with left sticks. I think we need two more top nine forwards but one with a right stick for sure so he fits that need.
Mander and Mongrain could be making their Delta debuts on Tuesday night when the Ice Hawks host the Grandview Steelers at 7:35 p.m. It will be their first game in a week and just their second in two weeks during an unusual quiet stretch of their 48-game schedule.
When Delta travels to Port Moody on Dec. 17 it will be its first road game in 24 days. The lack of action means the team with the best winning percentage in the PJHL with a 20-4-0-0 record is now four points behind the Richmond Sockeyes in the Tom Shaw Conference with four games in hand.
Things will change dramatically for the Hawks in January with 11 games over the 31 days.
“We will have had six practices before we have our next game, so we have a chance to work on some things, kind of get these guys acclimated, figure out what our combos and chemistry changes are and work through it,” Robinson added. “If you’d asked me if I would prefer this or a regular schedule, I would definitely prefer a regular schedule, but once I see it I just try to digest how to do it best (not question) why it's like that.
“It’s a little annoying when I look at it the loading of a back end (of our schedule), but like I told the guys, it's going to be a bit of a mental hurdle just to kind of deal with it.”