While the Rimbey Rock are getting adjusted to their new general manager – that being Greg Conway, they’re also getting to their new bench boss Lloyd Cox who has taken over the head coaching duties from Derek Sweet-Coulter who left the team at the end of last season.
Cox, who grew up in the eastern Alberta community of Lougheed and played Midget Triple “A” in Red Deer, brings a wealth of experience to the position including coaching minor hockey for 10 years and stints in the Western Hockey League with both the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Moose Jaw Warriors where he skated with another hockey player who’s been in the local news recently – Theoron Fleury.
“Well we’ve got potential,” Cox said in assessing what he’s seen out of his players during training camp and the pre-season. “I think we’ve just got to get together as a unit and start playing as a group instead of individuals. Hopefully that comes together. We’ve got size, we’ve got some speed and we’ve got guys who can score, so it’ll depend on how they gel.”
Cox, who now resides in Blackfalds and was a scout for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL last year, admitted he hasn’t seen much action in the Heritage Junior hockey League, but he’s already well aware of who the more powerful teams are, especially within his own division.
“The Blackfalds team is going to be really good,” Cox said. “They’ve got a bunch of kids out of the Lacombe Double “A” Midget team that didn’t lose a game last year. Red Deer’s got some Triple “A” kids coming back and Stettler should be strong – they won the league so they should be tough this season.”
To date the Rock have played two exhibition games losing to the expansion Strathmore Wheat Kings 9-3 and most recently, falling to Blackfalds by a score of 8-4, but he remains confident that the team will put up better numbers than last year when they recorded a 10 win, 25 loss, 1 tie record and finished in sixth place in the Northern Conference. While the team made the playoffs last season, they didn’t hang around for long as they were swept by the Red Deer Vipers in three straight games by a combined score of 30-6.
“The first exhibition game this year we sat eight veterans so we we’re just having a good look at the young guys. This game (Blackfalds) we’ve got those eight guys back in the lineup so hopefully we can start picking and choosing players,” he said referring to the fact that while the Rock are currently carrying 27 players, they’ll have to pare it down to 23 prior to the regular season opener sometime in early October.
“More or less, it’s our depth,” Cox replied when asked what the team’s weaknesses were. “We need to get deeper. If we get solidified there and come together as a team, hopefully by Christmas everything gels and we start rolling. I know it’s new to the players, the breakouts, penalty killing, the power-play and all the rest of it, But we’ve got lots of speed on the front end and we’ve got a couple guys on defense that can carry the puck and go.”
As for players to keep an eye on this season, Cox said his goaltending looks solid with Garrit Beechinor and Graham Waronek between the pipes and added he expects to see a big year out of his rookies who include Justin Lawson, Justin Foley and Cameron Reis.
The Heritage Junior hockey League has seen a few changes from last year and announced that they have moved the Banff Academy Bears from the Mountain division to the Prairie Division which will see them play the Rock more times this year; and have admitted the Strathmore Wheat Kings as an expansion franchise to fill a void left by the Maskwacis Attack who played out of Hobbema.