Dallas Snipers' inaugural season in the Western States Hockey League was one
they'd just as soon forget.
got behind the eight ball early in the ultra-competitive recruiting race in the
Dallas area and struggled to bring in high quality players.
the already established Texas Jr. Brahmas and the first-year wonder Dallas Ice
Jets were plucking up some of the top talent the area had to offer.
wasn't due to a lack of effort on then head coach Tom Yockey's part but the
Snipers recruiting struggles carried over into their regular season
performance, where they were never really able to get anything rolling in the
Snipers began year one by losing their first 16 games of the season, including
a 20-4 smack down at the hands of the El Paso Rhinos.
recording their first-ever franchise win, a 4-3 shootout victory over the New
Mexico Renegades on November 6, the Snipers went right back to their losing
ways and dropped their next seven.
team, which was often times was short benched, kept playing hard despite the
fact that they were essentially eliminated from the playoffs before the Las
losing all four games at the Showcase, the team returned from the holiday break
with not much fight left in them and who could blame them? Up to that point,
they had won just two times in 29 tries.
dropped their first seven games of 2012, before winning their first-ever series
by beating another struggling first-year franchise, the Park City Moose two out
of three times.
Snipers went on to lose their last six games of the regular season and finished
with a record of 5-41-0, the worst in the league.
reasonable person would expect a first-year franchise to flourish but when you
win just five times in 46 regular season games, something needs to change.
off-season, the Snipers and Owner Steve Becton got that change in the form of
new head coach Travis Clayton.
there's anyone that can change a team's culture and attitude, it's Clayton.
undersized forward played four seasons in the Tier II Saskatchewan Junior
Hockey League, where he twice put up triple digits in points and penalty
his junior career concluded, the Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan native played 14
seasons of professional hockey, including 11 with the Wichita Thunder of the
Central Hockey League.
wasn't the biggest guy, he wasn't the strongest and he tells me that he
definitely wasn't the most skilled but each and every season he played hockey,
he was amongst the team leaders in points and penalty minutes, making him both
a fan and teammates' favorite.
tenacity and hard work that he brought to the ice every time he stepped on it
is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Snipers and precisely what Clayton
vows to bring to Euless this upcoming season and beyond.
Snipers needed a culture change and Clayton will provide just that. Who
wouldn't want to work hard for a guy you know will work just as hard for you?
may not have been a lot of good that came out of last season but Clayton is
excited to begin his coaching career with a group of kids that will be hungry
to avenge each and every loss they suffered last season and will no longer
Players Moving Up:
Snipers from last season's squad are moving on to college hockey, as many
players decided to focus on school or other aspects of life after their junior
quivered when I asked about guys moving up and is making it his goal to move at
least five players on to higher levels of junior and/or college hockey for next
season. He feels that if his players work as hard as they can, that it will be
an easy feat to accomplish.
many players return to the Snipers this season but the few that do are solid in
terms of both their skill and character.
leader of the returning core is forward Shane
Bonds, who was second on the team last year with 46 points.
got to watch him play a couple of times in Las Vegas and the kid is a threat
every time he touches the ice. He's big, strong, deceptively fast and has a
nose for the net.
he had played on a better team, I'd imagine he could have been amongst the
league leaders in scoring last season.
returning is captain Aaron Krominga
who played both forward and defense last season. He's another one of the guys
with good character that works hard and does anything the coach asks of him.
third leading scorer from last season, Jake
Gordon, also returns and should see a jump in responsibilities and points.
feisty Justin Becton will also
return to Euless, where his edge and physical play will be exactly what Clayton
wants to see out of him.
is also excited about a group of rookies he's working on signing in the coming
weeks, as he is still rounding out a group of forwards that should be much
area Clayton will need to really get working is on his defense corps, as not a
single player returns to the group, which may or may not be a bad thing.
Texas natives will play their rookie season of junior hockey under Clayton, as Trent Williams and Dylan Durham have both signed on with the Snipers.
are described as young, reliable d-men that will grow as the season goes along.
is currently working the phones to bring in some more reliable defenseman that
will help his club immediately.
of the biggest changes for the Snipers will be in net, where they have already
made a deal to pick up a reliable starter.
Thomas Scoggin was acquired in a
deal with the nearby Dallas Ice Jets this summer and is expected to step right
in to fill the starter's job.
split time with Michael Baldwin in the Ice Jets crease last season and was terrific,
before going down late in the season with an injury that ended his year.
will be no splitting time for him in Euless, where he will get a good portion
of the work and should shine.
Clayton is still working on figuring out his second and third goaltenders but
there are plenty on the market and he should nab a couple.
definitely has his work cut out for him but if he can start by changing the way
his team both prepares and plays in games, it will be an easier road.
big break he'll get is the new teams coming into the Midwest Division.
Paso and New Mexico are gone to the Mountain Division and stepping in are two
first-year clubs, the Tulsa Jr. Oilers and Wichita Jr. Thunder.
expects both teams to compete but it can't hurt the Snipers chances of
succeeding with two teams that will face similar struggles to that of the
Sniper's inaugural year.
only one of the five teams missing the playoffs, I wouldn't be surprised if the
Snipers can slide in, which would be huge for the organization.
with their divisional clashes, they'll also play a rare out of division home
and away series against the New Mexico Renegades and will also travel to Wichita
to play the Jr. Thunder in a sort of homecoming for Clayton, as well as host
the first-year Bay Area Seals.
if it were just by a few wins, improving upon last season would be huge for
Clayton and the Snipers, as they look to build a solid program in an absolute
hotbed of hockey talent.
Brent Maranto is the Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League