There's plenty of optimism surrounding the Moose Jaw Generals as they prepare to open the 2018-19 season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last season, the Generals return much of last year's roster, which is a year older, more experienced and ready to compete.
"We're having fun in the dressing room, so it's pretty good, it's a good feeling," said forward Brendan Kemp. "We've got a special bond, we were all together last year, so we know what everyone is like and we're a pretty tight-knit group."
The Generals posted a 4-1-0 record during the preseason and looked primed for a big season.
The Generals got stronger as last season wore on and they will be focused on building off everything that was put in place last season. Second-year defenceman Jeron Kletzel said the team is much more confident to open this season.
"We're really excited for this year, we've got a good group of guys and we can do some damage this year," he said. "We all know what we're getting into, we know our systems and we're all ready."
Kemp will lead a forward group that should be dynamic with leading scorers Casey McDonald, Jaxon Georget, and Jake Palmer also returning this season.
"We're a good offensive group, we've got lots of speed, so if we use that our advantage, we'll do good," said Kemp. "We've just got to work hard and play our game, we've just got to buy into the roles that we have and do our job."
Defensively, the Generals will lean on their experienced defencemen as well with Kletzel, Jonah Reiger, Carey Levesque and Walter Somers returning this season.
Goalies Jaxson Taupert and Reece Hodson both join the Generals this season.
"Things will come if we work hard and play our game," said Kletzel. "I can definitely step it up this year and be more of a leader this year."
The Generals open the season with a tough test as they play five straight road games, starting this weekend with trips to Prince Albert and Beardy's.
Kemp said they will learn a lot about the team in these first five games, "Road games are that much harder to win, so we've just got to come out hard, do the best we can in these first five games and then start rolling from there," he said.
The Generals face-off with the Mintos on Saturday afternoon in Prince Albert and then battle the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon. Puck drops on both games at 1:30 p.m.