Following a home and home exhibition series with the Manning Comets last weekend the Grande Prairie Athletics will finish their 2014 – 2015 pre-season schedule Thursday night when they host the Spirit River Rangers leading into the NPHL’s opening weekend. Grande Prairie is coming off a successful weekend taking two from the Comets with scores of 6 to 2 at home and a thrilling 3 to 2 overtime win in Manning on Saturday night. Despite the success this past weekend and the looming regular season there is a lot left to still be determined for the Athletics roster.
One thing is for sure, the Athletics will boast a ton of new faces compared to last years roster when the puck drops this weekend.
The biggest surprise and potentially biggest challenge facing the team this season is the dwindling amount of bodies the team has seen this training camp. While injuries have played apart of those concerns, this year seen a smaller turnout then the previous two and with a handful of veterans hanging up the skates it’s made life a little more difficult for the coaching staff of BJ Clark and Brant Stilwell to round out the roster.
However it appears both the Athletics and NPHL in general are going through the same concerns.
Just a few years ago the league was home to two divisions and eleven teams. With the Hythe Mustangs and Lakeland Eagles folding last season and Dawson Creek and High Prairie both needing a year off this season it’s dropped a once thriving league into one division with just six teams.
As the defending champion Rangers come to town it should prove an interesting test for an A’s team that is looking to see where they stand and perhaps what they will need to get over the hump and capture an NPHL championship.
Spirit River enters their final pre-season game 0 and 1 following a 4 to 2 loss to the Fort St. John Flyers but should have a better lineup in store when they visit the Coca Cola Centre.