The Nanaimo Buccaneers celebrate a playoff goal. The team set franchise records for regular-season wins and points, but fell in Game 7 of the semifinals earlier this month. NEWS BULLETIN file

Nanaimo Buccaneers plan to ice another contending team next year

Junior B hockey club hands out year-end awards, goalie Krall chosen team MVP

The Nanaimo Buccaneers weren’t able to reach their ultimate goals this past season, but they’re already looking forward to trying again next season on a fresh sheet of ice.

The city’s Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League club concluded its season earlier this month, falling in Game 7 of the semifinals against the Saanich Braves.

Nanaimo set franchise records for wins and points in the last year with founding owners Phil and Brenda Levesque at the helm. New owner Clayton Robinson will take over May 1.

“Phil and Brenda, I’d like thank them, this is their last year. I’m sorry we couldn’t do it for them this year,” said Curtis Toneff, Buccaneers coach, mentioning the owners’ “countless hours” at the rink and behind the scenes.

“It was special to be a part of their last year and it was special to be a part of this group and I’m proud of everyone from the coaching staff to each and every player.”

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The Buccaneers graduate much of their core with 20-year-olds Trent Bell, Coleman Doney, Mathieu Jallabert, Cam Nickerson, Clayton Peace, Brandon Roberge and Jayden Schubert moving on and some of the younger players likely to move up to junior A.

“We’re going to be a bit younger next year. We’ll really look at bringing in guys that want to move up in the game,” Toneff said. “There’s some real nice locals … The future’s bright and what makes our program so special is our local talent and I think that’s what fills the seats and next year we’re not going to get away from that.”

He’s excited about several young players from the area who have committed to the Bucs program, some of whom already have experience with the club as affiliate players.

“If we get a young team and they play the right way, I think we should be in the exact same position next year, fighting to go to the finals,” Toneff said.

In other team news, the Bucs handed out their awards for 2017-18. Goaltender Derek Krall was chosen Most Valuable Player while Jallabert was Playoff MVP. Luc Wilson and Blake Wood shared Rookie of the Year, Doney was Best Defenceman, Schubert was acknowledged as Leading Scorer and Peace was honoured with the Coach’s Pick award and the Tough as Nails award.

Wood was Most Improved, Billy Walters was chosen Energy Player, Noah Kelly was Most Dedicated, Dylar Hartl was Most Sportsmanlike and Wyatt Selva was Unsung Hero and won the Rink Rat Award.

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