Jason McKee is the head coach of the Vanccouver Giants. (Langley Advance files)

Strong summer of training preps Giants for new season in Langley

More roster changes announced just days before the season starts.

G-Men are confident, but not cocky, heading into their first weekend of season play.

Langley’s premier hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, kick off the season this weekend with a game in Victoria on Friday, followed by a home opener Saturday, and head coach Jason McKee said there’s no better way to start the season than with a win.

It’s a very exciting time for the players, coming off pre-season exhibition games with a 5-1 record.

“We’ve had a good start,” McKee shared, hoping that synergy – including strong defensive play and good goaltending – can carry over into regular season play.

Coming off a rough 2016-17 season, the team had a good summer of training and has been playing together well this past month, the coach explained.

They’re still a “work in progress,” McKee added, but he’s confident in their abilities and said they’re all looking forward to an exciting season.

“They believe in each other.”

The puck drops on home ice at Langley Events Centre Saturday, at 7 p.m.

It’s the team’s 17th season in the Western Hockey League.

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Who’s coming back

The Giants roster is taking shape leading up to this weekend’s opening night.

Their roster now sits at 26 players: 15 forwards, nine defenceman, and two goaltenders as of today.

Despite being drafted by the New York Rangers, it appears one of the Giants’ shining stars, Ty Ronning, will still be suiting up with the G-Men – at least for now.

Wednesday morning, Vancouver Giants general manager Glen Hanlon announced that Ronning, along with newcomer Brad Morrison – recently eyed by the Calgary Flames – will be returning to the G-Men fold after attending their respective NHL camps.

“Both will be in uniform when the Giants kick off their season Friday in Victoria,” Hanlon said.

The return of these two young men, coupled with defencemen Matt Barberis and Dylan Plouffe (both returning from Vancouver Canucks training camps earlier this week) means that forwards Tyler Benson (Edmonton Oilers) and Brendan Semchuk (Washington Capitals) are the two Giants remaining at NHL camps, Hanlon elaborated.

Ronning was drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL draft and is fresh off his second NHL training camp in the Big Apple.

After posting 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points with the G-Men in 2016-17, Ronning played 12 games in the AHL with the Hartford Wolfpack where he snagged an additional two goals and three assists.

On Sept. 8, Ronning was named captain of the Rangers prospect team in Traverse City, MI.

Meanwhile, Morrison, who was acquired by the Giants in a June trade with the Prince George Cougars, is going to be taking his first turn on the ice as a Giant.

After participating in two previous NHL training camps with the New York Rangers (2015 and 2016), Morrison just returned from the Calgary training camp.

He competed for the Flames in Penticton at the Young Stars Classic. Morrison has played the previous 260 games of his WHL career with the Prince George Cougars and has 85 goals to complement his 103 career assists.

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On and off the bench

There’s been a few changes this past week in the G-Men’s net.

The Giants have said goodbye today (Wednesday) to veteran goaltender Ryan Kubic.

The netminder, who has been with the G-Men since 2013, has been traded to Saskatoon for a second-round pick in the 2019 WHL bantam draft, Hanlon announced.

Kubic, a Manitoba boy, will head back to the Prairies with a strong record.

He suited up in 109 career regular season games with the Giants, during which he compiled a record of 32-58-7-5 with an .895 save percentage, a 3.53 goals-against-average and five shutouts.

Kubic holds the Giants franchise record shutout streak having not allowed a goal in three consecutive games back in the winter of 2015-16.

He was also named the Giants Rookie of the Year that season, and the team’s “Unsung Hero” in 2016-17.

Kubic also captured the 2016-17 players choice award and three stars award. Last season he became the Giants single season saves record holder with 1,681.

And, internationally he represented Canada at the 2014 World under-17 hockey challenge.

“We want to thank Ryan for his years of service and for providing the Vancouver Giants with top level goaltending,” said Hanlon. “We wish Ryan nothing but continued success as he continues his WHL career with the Saskatoon Blades.”

With this move the Giants roster now sits at 26 players: Two goaltenders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards.

Just last week, the Giants traded another goalie, Jacob Wassermann, to the Regina Pats. Again, it’s a case of sending the netminder back to the Prairies, from whence he came.

Wassermann didn’t see a lot of game time with the Giants since he joined them in 2014.

But heading into this season, in his lone preseason appearance with the Giants in 2017 he stopped 21 of 23 shots against the Spokane Chiefs on Sept. 2.

“Jacob came to camp and competed very hard for us. We’re happy that he’ll get to continue his WHL career in his home province with the Regina Pats and we wish him and his family the best moving forward,” Hanlon said.

Wassermann has been traded in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.

Last week they also announced the trade of Giants forward Tristyn DeRoose, of Saskatchewan, to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

DeRoose joined the team in January 2016, and has been traded in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in the 2020 WHL bantam draft.

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Season set to unfold

The new season schedule includes 13 Friday night games and nine Saturday night games.

The Giants will also be hosting a series of special events nights including one on Saturday. It’s a trip down memory lane, as the team celebrates the 10-year anniversary of winning the Memorial Cup Championship. There will be a special pre-game ceremony, with a number of the alum in attendance, and commemorative posters for fans.

Other special events include the Giant’s popular Hyundai Teddy Bear Toss on Dec. 17 and the Remax Don Cherry bobblehead night on Oct. 7.

Tickets for the games are available online or by calling 604-4-GIANTS.

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