Surrey Knights head coach/GM Gerry Leiper talks to players during a PJHL game at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex in September 2019. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Surrey Knights head coach/GM Gerry Leiper talks to players during a PJHL game at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex in September 2019. (File photo: Tom Zillich)


Roster shakeup for Surrey Knights as team starts COVID-modified PJHL season

‘We are definitely much better than last year,’ head coach/GM says

With more new players than returning ones, the Surrey Knights are looking to rebound during the COVID-challenged junior hockey season to come.

Gerry Leiper, the PJHL team’s head coach and general manager, has added 14 players to his 25-strong roster, which includes 11 who have remained with the club after another difficult year in 2019-20.

“We are definitely much better than last year,” Leiper said of his lineup.

“However, I’m not sure how we will fare,” he added. “The target is a moving target. We lost a test 6-1 last week (in an exhibition game against White Rock Whalers on Oct. 10, at Langley Sportsplex). We were solid through half the game but in the end, lost. So we will see.”

The Knights and Whalers are in the same cohort to start the COVID-modified Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season, which got going on Thursday (Oct. 15).

Out of the gate, the PJHL’s four cohorts include one involving the Knights, Whalers, Aldergrove Kodiaks and Ridge Meadows Flames, as part of the league’s revamped 36-game schedule this season.

The Knights’ first game will be played Wednesday, Oct. 21 against Aldergrove Kodiaks, at Aldergrove Credit Union Community Arena, followed by a game against White Rock the next night (Thursday, Oct. 22) at North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex.

“We’ve been practicing for a month and a half,” Leiper said. “We are ready.”

At this time, fans are not permitted to attend PJHL games due to current COVID-19 building restrictions.

For each game, Leiper can ice a maximum roster of nine forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, with another eights players available when injuries and illness call for additional help. “Starting soon we will be allowed to go 12 forwards, but probably not until November.”

The team’s full roster is posted to

Returning players include forwards Ayodeji Ajayi, Dion Fowler, Mitchell MacLeod, Brandon Melsness, Dayton Milligan and Drew Williams, defensemen Bradley Collins, Edward Ridell, Ben Wasmuth and Sam Wasmuth, and goaltender Jarek Blackmon.

“We traded for Ethan Gourley and Montaro Uyeyama from Delta Ice Hawks. Both are skilled guys who can score,” Leiper said.

“But before them I added the Thompson brothers (Owen and Jacob), who are 19 and 16 years old,” he added. “Once I added them, everything started coming our way. All the players on our wish list started checking in with us.”

Leiper compared the Thompsons to Daniel and Henrik Sedin for their playmaking abilities. “Great kids to boot,” he said.

Also added to the roster were Darian Tamas and Owen Thibodeau, from Semiahmoo and Cloverdale minor hockey associations.

“Tamas is excellent on D,” Leiper said. “And Thibodeau is super fast, with the hardest snap shot on the team.”

Nickolas Rota was also added from the Ice Hawks (“a slick offensive defenseman who is fast, shifty and gritty tough,” Leiper noted). “Another good add for us was Anton Shopoval from Semi AAA – a skilled, fast forward who is gonna light it up,” he added. “And Logan Earle from New West is another 16-year-old who is a skilled rushing defenseman we added.”

Blackmon is back in goal, with help from rookies Rahul Sharma and Benjamin Skulski.

• RELATED STORY, from February 2020: Surrey Knights find positives as one-win season comes to a close.

Last February, the Knights finished the 2019-20 season with just a single win, and have just a handful of victories since moving to Surrey from Langley in the fall of 2016.

Last fall, the franchise vacated the old North Surrey Arena for a move into the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex. The team looked for better results on the ice, but the wins didn’t come.

“I can’t recall the exact number,” Leiper noted last February, “but it’s 14 or 15 games this year that were a one-goal loss for us, so if we had just one more guy to put the puck in, and we win even 50 per cent of those games, that’s a game-changer for us.”

To start the PJHL season, teams will only be allowed to play games against the other teams in their cohort for the first half of the season. In December, the league will break for the required 14-day quarantine period, then the cohorts will be shuffled for the remainder of the season.

The PJHL’s Cohort #1 will involve Grandview Steelers, Port Moody Panthers and Richmond Sockeyes, Cohort #2 includes Abbotsford Pilots, Chilliwack Jets and Mission City Outlaws, and Cohort #3 will be Delta Ice Hawks, Langley Trappers and North Vancouver Wolf Pack.

Schedules for each cohort will be posted on as they become available.

League commissioner Trevor Alto said the PJHL takes great pride in its return-to-play plan. “It has been a collaborated effort involving our governing bodies, municipalities, facilities, other user groups, and our players and staff,” Alto said in the website post. “Our teams have put in a lot of work getting us to this point, and we are very excited that we are able to get the season underway.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Junior B Hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

The entrance at Fleetwood Villa in Surrey. (Photo:
Fleetwood Villa resident tests positive for COVID-19, leading to ‘outbreak’ at facility

Fraser Health says it’s ‘critically important’ for people in the region to use COVID-19 assessment tool

A Surrey protest now in week 12 against a local resident has frayed the nerves of neighbours fed-up with the group’s presence. (Submitted photo)
Surrey neighbourhood fed-up with strange protest

Surrey Mounties say they’re monitoring the situation

Bhupinder Hundal. (submitted photo)
Surrey’s Bhupinder Hundal hired as news director of B.C. broadcaster

Grad of Princess Margaret Secondary now managing Global station

Surrey-White Rock MLA-elect Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA-elect Stephanie Cadieux have each been given a portfolio as an Opposition critic. (Contributed photos)
BC Liberals give Halford, Cadieux critic responsibilities

Surrey South and Surrey-White Rock MLAs to help keep eye on majority NDP government

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)
Judge hears Langley development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted out of council

The conflict of interest case was launched by local voters a year ago

Most Read