Eagles hire new coach after tough season

The Sicamous Eagles will begin their 2017/18 season under the wing of new head coach Rob Fitzpatrick.

The Sicamous Eagles will begin their 2017/18 season under the wing of a new head coach.

Rob Fitzpatrick will be replacing Matt Stang as the team’s bench boss.

A Tuesday, Feb. 28 news release from the Sicamous Eagles Junior Hockey Club says Fitzpatrick, of Sicamous, is a former coach of the KIJHL’s Grand Forks Border Bruins, Revelstoke Grizzlies and North Okanagan Knights, and most recently coached the Salmon Arm Midget T1.

“We’re excited to have him on the ice with our junior team,” said Eagles general manager Wayne March.

The change-up follows a rocky regular-season that saw Stang replace former head coach Ty Davidson two months and zero wins in. Under Stang, the Eagles slogged through the rest of the season to earn 10 wins and 21 points, but were unable to claw their way into the playoffs.

March says the first two months set the tone for the rest of the season.

“The first quarter of season, it killed us,” said March. “When you lose your first 14 games in a row, it’s pretty near impossible to climb your way back up into a playoff position.”

March acknowledges the team improved under Stang, but were still encumbered by the number of roster changes that occurred.

“We made, basically, 23 changes on our team when he got here,” said March. “That late in the season, you start making player changes, other than a couple, about three or four, it didn’t make any difference… And that’s what I was disappointed in.”

March adds he places no blame on the players who stuck it out to the end.

“They played their hearts out the best they could and I’ve got all the respect in the world for them,” said March. “Some kids could have folded their tent and said that’s enough for me and left. But they didn’t, they stuck it out right to the bitter end and gave it their best.”

March said he will be assessing what worked and what didn’t over the past eight months, while moving forward with Fitzpatrick to build a new team for the upcoming season.

“You’ve got to look at what didn’t work, what did work and try to work with both ends of it so you’ve got a common denominator in the middle,” said March. “I think you’ll see a lot better and different team here next year. I’m positive you will. This gives us a whole summer to work on recruiting and looking for players. I hope some of our better ones come back.”