Virden Oil Kings president Ryan Mathieson said the senior team is looking forward to facing new competition and showing how it matches up in a new league.
On Friday, the Oil Kings travel to Killarney to start their first season in the Tiger Hills Hockey League. The squad’s home opener will be Nov. 7 against Hartney.
“The THHL is a deep league with strong teams throughout,” Mathieson said. “It will be a test for us every night and we look forward to that. We feel we have a group that matches up with the top teams in the league and are excited to show that.”
Last season in the North Central Hockey League, the Oil Kings compiled a 9-11-0-0 regular season record. The team fell in the NCHL South semifinals to Langenburg.
Travel was one of the main reasons the Oil Kings explored joining the THHL. This season Virden will compete in the 14-team league’s West Division against Killarney, Boissevain, Deloraine, Melita, Hartney, and Souris. It will not be until the league finals that Virden or one of its West foes face off against an East Division squad: Minnedosa, Neepawa, Gladstone, MacGregor, Cartwright, Pilot Mound, and Wawanesa.
The Oil Kings seek success in the 12-game regular season as well as the THHL playoffs with a roster that returns much of last season’s core and adds many talented newcomers. There are 18 players back from last season. Among these are top scorer and team MVP Tanner Koroscil (21 points in 15 games) as well as NCHL All-Star defencemen Colin Paull and Brandon Masson.
The Oil Kings have lost long serving veterans such as Joel Cosens, Tyler Finch, Darcy Skayman, Jason Verran, and Tyler Campbell. Mathieson said they have a combined 51 seasons of senior hockey experience between them. Some others have departed due to work commitments. Mathieson said the team thanks all of them for their commitment and wishes them well.
In their stead come exciting additions such as former Virden Oil Capitals junior hockey forwards Dylan Thiessen, Jaxon Heeney and hometown defenceman Tristen Cross. Thiessen played last season at the University of Manitoba and will be joined on the Oil Kings by ex-Bisons teammate Riley Lamb. The goalie has played in the Junior A, major junior, U Sports, and pro ranks.
Forward Brennan Williams is back from Dakota College at Bottineau to play for his hometown team. The Oil Kings have also added 2020 Virden Collegiate Institute grads Ryan Colon, Jeremy Larway, and Mitch Whittle.