When a player comes to Wenatchee to play for the U18 Wolves, it’s made clear from the start that the primary emphasis will not be placed on winning games. The main objective is to help players develop and grow both on and off the ice so that they may pursue their playing career to the height of their personal ability. To prepare them for the coming levels of junior hockey, then hopefully college and beyond. For the Wenatchee Wolves, they’ve been able to achieve sustained success on all fronts, establishing themselves as a premier program in the Pacific Northwest.
The 2019-20 season was the sixth season of existence for the Wolves, who are affiliated with the Wenatchee Wild of the BCHL and operate under the umbrella of the Wenatchee Amateur Hockey Association. The Tier I program is piloted by Head Coach and Hockey Director Ryan McKelvie, with Co-Head Coach Jordan McTaggart and Assistant Coach Kyle Brodie. The Wolves played 50 games overall, both in-state and in both national and regional tournaments. They finished with a record of 29-19-3 (.610) overall, and were crowned Washington State Champions for the third year in a row. The Wolves have participated in the Tier I state tournament for the last three seasons and have taken the top spot each time. The team has finished 2nd or 3rd in each trip to the Pacific District, further securing their place as a top program in this part of the country.
Four Wolves players combined for a total of 12 games played with the Wenatchee Wild, demonstrating the very realistic opportunity for advancement in the Wenatchee development team program. Additionally, a total of 12 current or former Wolves players played in at least one Junior A game during the 2019-20 season. Two Wolves players were named as East Coast Elite League (ECEL) All-Stars, as Andrew Nieusma and Tuli Eisenbeis each received the honor. Nieusma and Riley Ott served as Team Captains, with Spencer White and Landon Bartels named assistant captains.
Statistical leaders for this year’s Wolves club over the course of 50 games included Riley Ott who led the team in goals (30), Andrew Nieusma who led in assists (37), and Tuli Eisenbeis who led the way in total points with 65 (29g, 36a). The Wolves top defenseman was Nieusma who racked up 59 points overall (22g, 37a).
At the end of the season, players vote on a pair of awards. In addition to the Most Valuable Player award, the coveted and revered “Wolves Award” is presented to the player who best exemplifies the attributes of what a team member should be. These traits include being a person of integrity, hard worker, and being a great teammate. The players vote this season bestowed the award to Andrew Nieusma. The MVP Award was shared by Tuli Eisenbeis and Riley Ott. The Academic Award was also a shared award, honoring the commitment to scholastic performance during the season. That award goes to the Wolves goaltenders Cole Eastman and Ian Young.
Head Coach and Hockey Director Ryan McKelvie was pleased overall with the Wolves season. “It was another successful year for our U18-Wolves program. More important than the success in the win-loss column was that we had a great group of young men that worked hard every day, had great attitudes, and showed a ton of character all season.”