Accessibility Tools

The preseason is nearing a close in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League as all 13 member clubs compete in one more weekend of tuneup games before things get going for real next weekend.

In the valley, the Swan Valley Stampeders are putting in final preparations as they get ready to come to Dauphin on September 22 on the opening night of the 2023-24 season. The Stampeders bounced Dauphin from the playoffs last year before coming up short in a six game defeat against the Steinbach Pistons. 

Barry Wolff led the Stampeders to their first Turnbull Cup final in 2019 and the team has not missed the playoffs since. In fact, Swan Valley continues to be one of the powerhouses in the league and a title contender year after year since Barry came on board.

This year, there are some big changes; however, that's what happens in the junior game.

"Things are going okay right now, we're getting the rust out and plugging along," said Wolff. "We had the chance to use our young guys in the first four preseason games which is a positive. Everyone is working hard and doing what they need to."

Swan Valley jumped out of the gate this preseason by scoring nine goals in two games in a pair of victories against Waywayseecappo. The team then lost a pair of games against Dauphin, one at Credit Union Place and one at the Centennial. The Stampeders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second game but ended up falling 5-2. That was a lesson learned for everyone on the team.

"There's no question about it. We went up and our guys thought it was over," offered Wolff. "Dauphin always competes and works extremely hard and they took it to us in the second half of the game. It was a great lesson for our guys."

Swan Valley will now play a home-and-home with OCN this weekend. That leads up to a week of practice before their trip to Dauphin to open the campaign. While many tough decisions still have to be made when it comes to finalizing their roster, two critical pieces of the puzzle this year will be Trey Sauder and Jakob Jones.

Both back for their final year of junior eligibility, the duo are coming off outstanding seasons. Jones finished tied for third in league-scoring last year with 72 points, 30 of which were goals. Sauder; meanwhile, finished with 24 goals and 36 assists to rank 10th in league scoring. They were playing on a line with Justin Keck who had 63 points and has since graudated from the junior ranks. Jones then had 12 more points in 12 playoff games and Sauder had eight in the same amount of games played.

They will once again be paired this year and are expected to be two of the toughest players to stop in the league.

"We're hoping that they can build off the success that they had last year," ended Wolff. "We have to find a linemate for them to create that magic again. Both Sauder and Jones have come into camp focused and they are ready to do whatever it takes to win, they're both in a good spot."

This year also marks a monumental one for the organization as they celebrate their 25th year in the MJHL. While the chase for their first league title continues, the community of Swan River is once again ready to rally behind their hometown team.

"The buzz in the community is huge right now," ended Wolff. "For a small market team to be successful and to get all of the support we get, it's second to none. I can't say enough about how great this community is."