COALDALE - With seven wins in their first 10 games of the season, the Coaldale Copperheads have had themselves a nice start to the 2017-18 campaign in the Heritage Junior Hockey League.
They currently sit in second place in the Southern Division, tied with the Okotoks Bisons with 14 points, but having played one more game.
This year the team is led by first-year Head Coach Scott Trotter, who says he's impressed by what he's seen so far.
"I think the product on the ice backs up the standings, we look pretty good. We're young, I think we only have one guy who isn't eligible to return next year, so we've got a lot of energy, a lot of heart and it's pretty exciting," Trotter said.
The Copperheads first joined the Heritage league back in the 2007-08 season, and won their first championship in 2015.
Last season they finished third in the Southern Division with a 24-12-2 record, and made it all the way to the Southern Division finals after defeating the Medicine Hat Cubs and Okotoks Bisons before losing to the Cochrane Generals in six games.
A key to the Copperheads early success this season is balanced scoring. Captain Calvin Swanson currently leads the team with 2 goals and 11 assists and center Sam Paskuski is right behind him with 4 goals and 6 assists. Each player has suited up for all ten games played this season.
Forwards Jayden Smith and Logan Middleton each have eight points in nine games played, while four other players each have seven points on the year.
But Trotter thinks the Copperheads are pretty solid all the way through their lineup.
"We've got six or seven defenceman who are eligible to play every night, and up front we're getting scoring from the top line right on down to the 4th line. Our goalies are doing a great job night in and night out, and our guys are comfortable playing in front of them," he added.
Goaltenders Nolan Berner and Andrew Suriano have split duties in net to this point. Berner has a record of 3-1 to go along with a 3.19 goals against average and a .907 save percentage, and Suriano sports a 3-2 record with a 3.73 GAA with a .879 SV%.
Home ice has been a big key for the Copperheads so far this season, with Coaldale sporting a 4-1 record at the Coaldale Sportsplex. One of the things the crowd is known for is being loud and proud, and Trotter admits they're a big factor.
"The crowd in Coaldale is great, we get pretty close to a sell out nearly every night," he said. "The energy in the rink is incredible, it's almost like we're on a power play every time we're on the ice. Every team likes playing at home, but we really love it because of the great fans we have."
Coaldale is currently riding a three-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 20-9 in the process. Despite the early season success, Trotter believes the best is yet to come for the Copperheads.
"Honestly, I don't think we've hit our peak yet. A lot of our guys are young, 18 and 19-year-old's, in their first or second years in the league so I think we haven't seen just how good we can be as a team yet. I'm pretty excited about this group, I think we're going to have a good year and playoff push," Trotted stated.
Another key to the early season success has been team leadership. Trotter believes they've got solid leadership, both from returning and new guys, and it's led to a dressing room full of guys pulling in the same direction.
"The dressing room is positive and full of energy. It seems like guys are really starting to bond, and I'm real happy to be the coach of this team."
The Copperheads have a double header on tap this weekend. On Saturday, Oct. 28 they'll battle the Cochrane Generals at home before hitting the road for a showdown with the second-best team in the Northern Division, the Blackfalds Wranglers, on Sunday, Oct. 29.
Coaldale hammered the Generals this past weekend 6-1, and Trotter says that as long as they bring the same effort they had for that game to both games this weekend, they'll be just fine.
Anyone interested in reading more about the Copperheads, or finding the team's full schedule can head to their website here.
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