Matt Kolle stood pat on Monday at the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League trade deadline, the Kamloops Storm general manager convinced the horses he needs are already in the barn.
“I didn’t really see anything in our league or in the associate leagues that was better than what we have,” Kolle said.
Key acquisitions on the back end earlier in the season are among reasons Kamloops (22-4-2-1) has an eight-point lead atop the Doug Birks Division and sits second in league standings, behind only the Osoyoos Coyotes (23-2-3-3).
Kolle snared 20-year-old Alek Erichuk, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenceman from Kamloops, and 18-year-old Holdin Getzlaf, a 6-foot, 190-pound rearguard from Kelowna.
Brendan Kirschner, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound D-man from Kamloops, had left the game, but the 19-year-old blue liner returned to hockey earlier this month to join the Storm.
“With us being as good as we are, it’s a pretty fun team to be around right now,” Kolle said. “The execution and puck movement on this team is certainly on a different level than what you’re used to in junior B.”
Kolle said his players are taking advantage of affiliate status to earn valuable experience in the junior A ranks.
Leading scorer Zakery Anderson, a 17-year-old forward from Kamloops, for example, was in the lineup for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday, logging B.C. Hockey League minutes while the Storm edged the Chase Heat 4-3 at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
“I have 24 players, so it doesn’t affect us,” Kolle said, noting goaltender Colton Phillips-Watts of Quesnel and forward Hudson Cameron of Kamloops were both recently toiling temporarily in the BCHL. “Zak becomes that much more confident and better for me when he returns.”
Kolle expects eight or more of his players to move on to higher levels of hockey next season.
“But for right now, they’re key contributors on a very strong team,” Kolle said. “Teams have been very good about leaving our players be.”
Kamloops is scheduled to play host to the 100 Mile House Wranglers (8-19-0-1) on Friday, a 7 p.m. start on Mac Isle.
“We’re a big, strong team that doesn’t take penalties,” Kolle said. “Playing other teams in seven-game or four-game series, you know what, it’s going to wear teams down.”