Don Schulz is hoping to convert the TRU WolfPack hockey team into a champion, and he's started by converting Travis Herlein into a defenceman.
The WolfPack is scheduled to open the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League regular season on the weekend in Victoria, where it will face the Vikes on Friday and Saturday. They will be the first two games of TRU's 24-game schedule, which will wrap up in early March.
TRU reloaded after losing to Simon Fraser University in a league semifinal last season. The WolfPack recruited hard, and the payoff has been a strong forward corps and three new goaltenders.
But Schulz's defence was short a man so Herlein, a 24-year-old Calgary native, moved to the blue-line. It has less to do with Herlein's production - he had 11 points, five of them goals, in 13 games last season, his second with TRU - than with his versatility.
"We're so deep up front that we had to convert a third-year guy to defence," said Schulz, who is now in his third season as the WolfPack's head coach. "I don't think he's played much (defence) his whole life."
Herlein was forced out of the lineup for part of last season due to academics, but kept practising with the WolfPack while getting his grades up.
"He practised on defence last year and showed an affinity for it," Schulz said. "He has a forward mentality on defence, and has added a little more punch to our back end."
Of course, Schulz isn't exactly worried about punch - he has 17 forwards, and said that, if his team stays healthy, "There's going to be guys in the stands . . . who would have been on our third line last season."
Schulz said his first line will be Sean Maktaak, Silvan Harper and Tyler Berkholtz, all of whom played in the BCHL last season. Josh MacDonald, Duncan Schulz and Colton Schell form the second line and, after that, there is talent to spare.
Don Schulz saw this on the weekend in Calgary, where the WolfPack became the first B.C.-based team to win the SAIT Icebreaker tournament in its 25-year history. TRU tied the Red Deer College Kings and defeated the host SAIT Trojans - both teams are members of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
What's more impressive is the number of newcomers in big roles - TRU has 17 players new to the WolfPack, and they're already buying in.
"These guys seem to be adept at picking up systems," Schulz said. "We played a couple of the better teams in the ACAC and did well - the expectations are high.
"Of the three years I've been coaching (at TRU), this is the best start we've had, and I think that bodes well for us. This is the most optimistic I've been at this point."
The WolfPack has three new goaltenders - Stephen Wolff, who transfered from Selkirk College, and Chris Solecki and Mark Menicucci, rookies right out of the junior ranks.
"Our new guys have played well," Schulz said. "No disrespect to the previous guys, but this goaltending tandem is definitely an improvement."
The WolfPack's home-opener is scheduled for Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m., against Trinity Western at Memorial Arena.
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The WolfPack soccer teams, still ranked in the top-three nationally, are back on the road this weekend.
TRU's women are ranked No. 2 in the nation and first in the Pacific Western Athletic Association with a 5-0-1 record. They are off to North Vancouver to play the Capilano Blues on Saturday before heading over to Nanaimo to play the Vancouver Island Mariners on Sunday.
The WolfPack men are 4-1-1, tied for first in the conference. They dropped from second to third in the national rankings after a weekend loss. The men also will play at Capilano on Saturday and VIU on Sunday.
TRU's next home games are scheduled for Oct. 5, when the UBC-Okanagan Heat at Hillside Stadium.
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The Canada West volleyball season is a month away, but the WolfPack men will be home to the UBC-Okanagan Heat tonight.
The teams will play an exhibition match at the Tournament Capital Centre at 7 o'clock. They also will head north for exhibition matches in Prince George on Friday and another in Quesnel on Sunday.
These will be the first exhibition matches for TRU, which features five Prince George natives - setter Colin Carson, libero Spencer Reed, middle Nic Balazs, libero Jared Mitchell, and outside hitter Jordan Foot.
The WolfPack and Heat will open the regular season on Oct. 25 in Kelowna.
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The WolfPack baseball team will head west for some more exhibition action.
TRU is scheduled to play four games against a Pacific Baseball League All-Star team in Langley. The team will be coached by Doug Mathieson, the head coach of the Langley Blaze.
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After a solid weekend at a Dirty Feet trail race in Kamloops, the WolfPack cross-country running team is off to Kelowna for a weekend meet with the Heat.
The teams will be running on trails near the UBC-Okanagan campus. TRU is planning to take 10 women and five men for the meet.
The women are to run 3.5 kilometres, while the male runners will do 6km.
© Kamloops Daily News