The Squamish Wolf Pack is holding a third game in Whistler, after rescheduling a matchup against the North Delta Devils that was postponed because of snow in December.
It will be a very different team that takes the ice than fans saw in the Wolf Pack's Jan. 2 win over the Delta Ice Hawks. The Wolf Pack made several trades in January, mostly for future considerations. Some trades were made with the players' best interests in mind, including the decision to move all star goalie Graham Hallenbeck.
Arguably the Wolf Pack's best player, Hallenbeck was in the last year of eligibility and coach Matt Samson agreed to trade him to Grandview Steelers - second place in the division and the Pacific International Junior Hockey League - to give him a chance to go to the provincial championship.
Since the trade Hallenbeck has four wins and two losses with Grandview, including two wins against the top-ranked Richmond Sockeyes.
"Basically it was a situation where we let some of our older guys go somewhere where they would have a chance to go to the provincials, but in trades we got a couple of players next year that will help us," said Samson.
"We have to rebuild and plan the team for next year, and give some other guys on the roster a chance to step up and play a bigger role."
On Jan. 8, Squamish traded Roberto Yslas to the Mission Icebreakers in exchange for the rights to goalie Tyler Bachmeier.
On Jan. 9, the Wolf Pack traded Nils Hanfstingl to the Abbotsford Pilots Hockey Club, and Ross Pattison and Nick Johnston to the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League in exchange for "future considerations" from those teams.
On Jan. 10, the Wolf Pack transferred the playing rights of Cole Nelson, who is from Squamish, to the Port Moody Black Panthers in exchange for "future considerations."
Samson is among the coaches lobbying to change the way the league seeds teams in the playoffs. Currently four out of the five teams in each of the two PIJHL divisions go to the playoffs, while Samson and others believe it would be better to rank the teams league-wide and allow the top-eight to move into the playoffs.
"The four top teams in the league are in our division, in my opinion," said Samson. "It doesn't make sense that two of the strongest teams in the league are going to be knocked out in the first round.
"Realistically, if all our players were healthy, if we were being ranked in the league (before the trades) we could be in sixth place. It's just tough the way it played out this year."
The issue will be addressed at a Feb. 10 governor's meeting, and changes could be implemented next season if enough teams agree.
As an expansion team, the expectations for the Wolf Pack were low from the start. However, Samson says it will be easier to recruit and train a competitive team after a full season in the league, and an earlier start.
"We'll have a lot more time to prepare," he said. "Some of my time was invested last summer in stuff like getting uniforms, getting contracts signed with the rink, finding billets for players. In year two all those details are taken care of. It will be a lot easier, my focus will be on recruiting, putting on camps, and trying to find talent."
The Feb. 8 game against North Delta in Whistler takes place at 3 p.m. The price of admission is $8 for adults and $6 for youth and seniors.
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