By Orrin Farries
The Ooks men’s hockey team posted a nearly-perfect preseason, going 4-1 and scoring 20 goals, followed up with an opening weekend series sweep of the SAIT Trojans scoring 7 goals across the 2 contests.
This Ooks squad is oozing goal-scoring potential, posting 48 shots per game in their opening weekend of play, shooting 23 more shots per game than their opponents. That considered, the Ooks eeked out their two wins, with a 3-2 overtime victory in Calgary, followed by a 4-3 win at home were the Ooks thoroughly dominated possession.
“We lost four of our top six scorers from last year,” said head coach Tim Fragle. “If you look at this weekend, [we scored] close to 50 shots per game, but not enough finish around the net, I think that’s one thing we’re going to have to shore up, but we know we got guys who can score, there’s no question.”
One of those players who can score, Colton Waltz, was playing inspired hockey throughout the opening weekend. Waltz dished out two assists in their first win, and potted what was ultimately the decisive goal for the Ooks second win of the season, knabbing himself player-of-the-game honours in the process.
“I think this year we have a little bit of a different feeling in the room,” said Waltz. “I think we bring a little bit of a different style to the ice too. We’re a grittier team, and I think that will pay off, in the long run, going into the playoffs.”
Following last year’s devastating loss in the ACAC championship to the MacEwan Griffins, the Ooks have had change thrust upon them, but are looking to turn the setback into a comeback.
“Obviously last year, yeah, was heartbreaking, and it’s something that we’re looking to redeem, and hopefully this is the year,” said Waltz.
“It’s really nice to start the year off hot,” said rookie forward Branden Klatt, a towering physical presence on skates, “Obviously getting the 2 big W’s against SAIT is big, they’re not an easy team to play.”
Being one of six first-year players on the team, Klatt is focussed on growing and being a contributing force to the team.
“It’s always the goal to push for more. I wasn’t here last year, but what’s always been iterated to me since I’ve been here is that we need to push to be the best all the time,” said Klatt. “I think I’m a big forward who plays a good 200-foot game, so just being a steady guy in the lineup and providing some stability on offence, defence, faceoffs and penalty kill.”
Head coach Tim Fragle already has his sights set on the playoffs for redemption but stressed the process that the Ooks will have to buy into to get back into position to compete for a championship.
“The goal is to finish top 2 if we can, but this year you look at the conference as a whole and there are some improved teams. I like that every night you’re going to be tested by your opponents,” said Fragle. “We preach every day that our practices need to be hard so our games are easy, and if you do that throughout the year, then you’re embracing the process.”