Gnidziejko looks to build on first year success
Central Plains head coach Brad Gnidziejko directs traffic during camp Tuesday night at Portage Mutual Arena in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)
A lot of uncertainty surrounds the Central Plains Capitals roster ahead of the 2017/18 Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League (MMAAAHL) season.
With a healthy amount of eligible returnees still pursuing bigger and better things - whether it be vying for positions on clubs in the Western Hockey League (WHL) or the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), there were notable absences as the boys opened camp this week in Portage la Prairie.
“In the grand scheme that’s what you want,” admits Brad Gnidziejko, who returns as the Caps’ bench boss following a successful inaugural campaign with the club. “You’ve got to accept the fact that we’re here to help the kids and pick up where their previous coaches left off and prepare them for the next level. We’re just another stepping stone for these kids and that’s the way it should be.”
After coaching the Caps to the playoffs in his first year as head coach, Gnidziejko plans to build off of last year’s success regardless of who suits up for him.
“I’m hoping we can sort of pick up where we left off last year,” he added. “It’s nice to be starting from something other than ground zero.”
With forwards Zak Smith, Rilley Funk and Joey Moffatt still away at higher-level camps, the door is open for this year’s batch of hopefuls to make an impact as preseason play is set to begin next weekend.
“We do have some foundation we can work off of but who knows how many kids we’re going to lose,” said the coach. “You’ve got to be proud of those kids but it makes for a little bit of an unknown.”
The Caps finished in a three-way tie for fifth last year posting a 25-15-3-1 record and if it weren’t for the unfortunate loss of leading scorer and league MVP Moffatt, could have made a deep run in the postseason.
“As long as the kids bring their A game and put their best foot forward every time they step on the ice, then the chips can fall as they may,” says Gnidziejko.
The Caps open the 2017/18 regular season Sept. 30 against Eastman on the road in Beausejour before hosting Pembina Valley the following day at Stride Place.