It’s a new season in a completely different time, but the Coaldale Copperheads are ready for puck drop. The Copperheads ice their 2020-21 Heritage Junior Hockey League season as they hosted the Medicine Hat Cubs Saturday at the Coaldale Sportsplex.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the HJHL season March 12 continues, the Copperheads will play under an entirely new schedule in the face of the pandemic.
“It’s going to be a different year,” said new Copperheads head coach Doug Paisley, who took over behind the bench in July. “It’s going to be a condensed season with a 20-game regular season schedule with a 14-day break between playing teams. We’re going to play the same team four times over two weekends and then take 14 days off for practice only and then we’ll play a new team.”
The two teams go back at it Sunday at 2:15 p.m. in Medicine Hat and complete the four-game series Nov. 6 and 7 in Medicine Hat and Coaldale, respectively.
After a two-week break, the Copperheads take on the Cochrane Generals Nov. 22 in Cochrane and Nov. 28 in Coaldale at 8:30 p.m.
This year, the HJHL voted to adjust the divisions of play from two to three divisions.
The Copperheads will play in the South Division against a pod with Strathmore, Medicine Hat, Lomond and Okotoks.
The Central Division will consist of Cochrane, Airdrie, Three Hills and Mountain View/Didsbury, while the North Division will be Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Ponoka and Stettler.
No matter the circumstances and the adjustments, Paisley said his team is simply happy to get a season going.
“I think the guys are feeling really fortunate that we get to play. We get to go to the rink three times a week and practise. We got to play a little bit of exhibition and now we’re getting ready for the regular season. So I think our guys are excited.” The Copperheads and Cubs split their exhibition home-and-home two weeks ago.
“It’s important for the coaching staff to get a good visual on what the guys played,” said Paisley. “We saw some different chemistries and line combinations that worked and didn’t work and it gave us a little bit of direction the last two weeks on what we needed to work on and try some different combinations we felt would work and create some chemistry and synergy.”
As he heads into his first season behind the Copperheads bench, Paisley sees balance on the team in front of him.
“I don’t think we’re overly big and physical, but we’re physical enough,” he said. “We’re not going to be the fastest team, but we’re fast. Our group can move a good puck and I think our guys play 200 feet, so our backcheck is there. I think everybody is responsible and our goaltending is good. Our back end moves a good puck and we should get some scoring. We have a balanced attack. I don’t think we’re strong in any area, but we’re not weak either. So I’m pretty comfortable.”
Currently, there will be no gate admission sales in person.
All tickets sales will be using an online service through a link on the Copperheads media feeds 3-4 days prior to home games.
Tickets are $10 plus tax each time with a limit of two per sale.
For more information visit http://www.coaldalecopperheads.com