The Delta Ice Hawks have welcomed back a veteran forward from last year’s championship team as they return to work at this weekend’s Pacific Junior Hockey League Winter Classic in Richmond.
Kyle Uy has re-joined the club for the stretch run and is expected be playing alongside good friend and team captain Jordan Deyremnjian in Saturday’s game against the Aldergrove Kodiaks. The 20-year-old forward had 30 points in 33 games last season and played in all situations.
“He is a heavy and gritty player who the guys totally love,” said Ice Hawks GM and head coach Steve Robinson. “He brings a bit of character and moxie and we don’t have a lot of that component on our team, especially up front. I think he is a big add for us.”
With the Jan. 10 league roster deadline looming, Robinson is leaning towards doing little else for what is shaping up to be a very competitive stretch run and post-season.
Delta (21-6-2-3) currently sits second overall in the league standings — six points back of front-running North Vancouver and two ahead of surging Richmond. Abbotsford is also looming five points back.
What Robinson is banking on is the continued improved play of his younger players over adding more veteran help. Topping that list is 17-year-old rookie Dillon Maher.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound winger entered the Christmas break with six goals in his last three games after scoring one in his first 27.
“It’s all about confidence. For me, that’s a guy all year I have been saying can score at this level,” continued Robinson. “We used him in front of the net on the power play and that’s how he got two of his goals. He just needed the opportunity and the confidence.
“We kicked some tires but honestly, for me, giving up a young guy for a 20-year-old is too much. The days of having the most 20 year-olds wins in this league are not the same. Not to say those veteran guys won’t help you in a seven game playoff series because they will but I don’t think it’s an end all and be all.
“I just think it has changed. Darren (Naylor) did it last year (with Delta). It’s having the right 20s and that's what we learned.”
With Uy’s return the Hawks do have six forwards with plenty of playoff experience — Daniel Rubin, Andrew Kemp, Alex Suprynowicz, Mark Epshtein and Deyremnjian. Throw in Maher, Jordin Kojima and Dario Esposito and Robinson feels he can roll out three productive lines.
He is also looking forward to being close to full strength after going through a rash of injuries in the past month or so.
“It’s been a really weird run of not having continuity with our line-up,” he added. “As a coach I can’t say I have been really happy with how we have played per say but when I stand back from the whole thing, to see we have a .730 winning percent we will take it all day long given where we have been.”
“If we are healthy I like our chances. I wouldn’t call us the favourite. It’s different than last year. Richmond and North Van are the 1-and-2s and us and Abby are in the next group. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of six teams win the whole thing.”
The Hawks take on Aldergrove Saturday (7 pm.) at Minoru then face Langley on Sunday (4 p.m.) to close out the Winter Classic. They will be back home Jan. 8 to take on Ridge Meadows at 7:35 p.m.