The goaltenders competing for spots in the Brandon Wheat Kings training camp have spent years forging friendships, but they won’t let that stop them from focusing on the task at hand.
The Wheat Kings have three goalies in camp — 17-year-olds Logan Thompson and Evan Robert, and 16-year-old Josh Dechaine — vying for the backup job behind returning starter Jordan Papirny.
Thompson said he can’t help but keep an eye on what the others are doing, but he’s most concerned with his own performance.
“My mindset right now is just go out there right now and don’t worry about anyone else’s, just worry about my game,” said Thompson, who had a 2.77 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage with the Calgary Midget AAA Buffaloes last season. “If I do that and play my game, I’m pretty confident that I’ll have a chance at staying here for the year.”
Robert, viewed as the other frontrunner, is equally confident.
“My mindset is 100 per cent I want to play here,” said the Minnesotan, who played in Pennsylvania last season, posting a 2.09 GAA and a .915 pct., for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. “I’m expecting to make the team. That’s all I came here for.”
“I’m here all business, obviously, but it’s also a good time,” he continued. “It’s nice to see these guys I’ve been with for the last three years.”
Robert said this summer in St. Louis Park, Minn., he had the chance to skate with pros, including NHLers like Zach Parise, Drew Stafford, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, to prepare for a fast-paced game and harder shots. He also worked out with a number of Minnesota-based WHLers and grilled them about the league.
In addition to his regular summer work, Thompson got to spend some time with the Wheat Kings this spring, backing up Papirny when Curtis Honey was injured.
Thompson said his late-season call-up reaffirmed in his mind that this is where he wants to play this season.
“For sure it gets me closer with the guys a little bit and a little bit more used to the shots,” Thompson said. “It just kind of gave me the mindset this is where I want to be and I’m going to come here, work hard and try and make the team this year.”
Both goalies should get a good chance to prove themselves, with Papirny leaving after the first week of the WHL pre-season to attend rookie camp with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
MAIN ATTRACTION: Czech winger Richard Nejezchleb scored twice as Team Black topped Team White 7-5 in the first scrimmage of main camp on Friday night at Westman Place. Another import, Latvian winger Rihards Bukarts, scored twice for White.
Nolan Patrick added a goal and two assists for Black, with fellow rookie Mark Matsuba and 15-year-old draft pick Jeremy Klessens also scoring, along with veterans Ryley Lindgren and Jayce Hawryluk. Veteran forwards Peter Quenneville, Tyler Coulter and Tim McGauley had the other markers for White. McGauley also had two assists.
Returning starter Papirny shared the Black net with Dechaine and the pair combined for 28 stops. Thompson and Robert faced 34 shots for White.
ONE-TIMERS: LW Ty Lewis’s camp is over. The 16-year-old Brandonite broke a bone in his left forearm on Thursday night … D Ryan Pulock made a cameo appearance in camp, going for a few spins during practice Friday morning. The 20-year-old former Wheat Kings captain and WHL all-star is slated to play professionally in the New York Islanders’ system this season.