The Tri-Cities' top-tier junior 'B' hockey club is back on ice.
And they're hoping the hockey gods will be on their side this season following a lull three-win injury-ridden campaign last year.
The Port Moody Panthers are set to begin a four-game pre-season series — two at home and two on the road — on Friday (Aug. 19) in Ridge Meadows against the Flames.
The Panthers are scheduled to begin the 2022-23 Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season on Sept. 15 in Richmond.
They'll play their first home contest at Port Moody Arena of the year two days later, Sept. 17, against the Abbotsford Pilots.
In an earlier interview with the Tri-City News, general manager Brian Wiebe said the dismal record last season came down to multiple players getting injured whenever others were nearly recovered.
He explained full rosters were hard to come by almost on a nightly basis, which led to signing 17 young affiliated prospects from across the region.
"We only had two games during the entire season where we were able to have an extra player not dressed. [...] it seemed like every time we got close to having a healthy lineup, another couple of players would go down with injuries."
As of this publication (Aug. 14), the Panthers have signed seven new players — and traded for another — including Port Moody product Dylan Emerson, who recently claimed a B.C. under-18 AAA boys' title with the Vancouver North East Chiefs.
That team went on to play at the 2022 national championships as well.
"Growing up in Port Moody, playing for your hometown team is always special," Emerson explained in a team release.
"I am excited to play for an organization that works hard to help young players be their best. I want to help the Panthers have a successful regular season and definitely help the team make the playoffs."
And that's the attitude Wiebe said he was looking for this off-season: presenting opportunity for players from all over as a "major strength" for 2022-23.
"When you have a season like the one we did, our returning players know they'll be pushed by incoming recruits and any other players we acquire," he added.
"The next step is to continue to highlight our program as one that develops players to play at a higher level. With three players on our roster affiliated with BCHL teams and others who attracted conversations with teams at that level as well as the WHL and college, our endgame remains to help the young men on our team grow on and off the ice."
An official roster has yet to be made, and will likely be solidified prior to the start of the regular season in September.
The Port Moody Panthers' pre-season schedule is as follows:
- Aug. 19 = 7:30 p.m. @ Cam Neely Arena vs. Ridge Meadows Flames
- Aug. 27 = 6:30 p.m. @ Port Moody Arena vs. Surrey Knights
- Sept. 1 = 7 p.m. @ North Surrey Recreation Centre vs. Surrey Knights
- Sept. 10 = 7:45 p.m. @ Port Moody Arena vs. Ridge Meadows Flames
For more information, you can visit the Port Moody Panthers' website.