BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Veteran goaltender Curtis Honey (above) will be pushed by rookie Jordan Papirny this season.
No matter how you want to look at the Brandon Wheat Kings’ depth chart in goal, both netminders subscribe to one simple train of thought: The better they play, the more they’ll play.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Papirny. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Curtis Honey enters the season as the veteran of the tandem with 1 1/2 seasons in the Western Hockey League under his belt, while Jordan Papirny is the highly-touted rookie — the only goaltender ever picked in the first round of the bantam draft by the Wheat Kings (22nd overall, 2011). Papirny’s pedigree has onlookers wondering if he can push the 19-year-old Honey for the starting job this season and the 17-year-old rookie said he certainly plans to make his case for playing time whenever he hits the ice.
"That’s every (goaltending duo’s) relationship, to push each other," said Papirny, the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League’s playoff MVP last season for Edmonton’s SSAC Athletics. "I think at the end of the day, whatever games I get given, I’ve got to work with that and control what I can control, and obviously Curtis will control what he can control."
As Papirny suggests, Honey has the same outlook when it comes to playing time. Having started last season as the backup to Corbin Boes, Honey earned more playing time as the season went on, finishing with a 3.81 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage, and he hopes to take another step forward this season, with Boes now between the pipes for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
"I want to play as much as I can," Honey said. "I’m 19 and there’s an opportunity here, so I want to go out there every night and just be consistent and do what I can to help my team. But at the end of the night you don’t really worry too much about that (getting starts). That’ll just take care of itself."
Wheat King head coach Kelly McCrimmon acknowledges the importance of Honey’s experience, but it appears as though he’s committed to giving both goalies ample opportunity to show what they can do.
"I think (Honey) had stretches last year where he did take on a starter’s role with injuries and that type of thing to Corbin at the time," said McCrimmon, who is looking for improved team defence and goaltending to help the Wheat Kings cut their goals against from an Eastern Conference-worst 284 last season. "He’s going into his third year so he’s worked real hard, he’s in great shape and I think ready to make the best of his opportunity. And Jordan, we’ve been waiting for a couple years to have him in our organization. He’s been a guy we’ve been real excited about since the day that we drafted him … and he’s done nothing since the day we drafted him but get better."
The Wheat Kings settled on their goaltending pair right out of training camp, giving both a chance to play two complete games during the pre-season. Honey was 2-0 with a 3.36 GAA and an .887 pct., while Papirny was 1-1 with a 3.53 GAA and .907 pct. Both goaltenders also improved week-to-week in the pre-season, playing their best in last weekend’s home-and-home sweep of the Regina Pats.
McCrimmon believes getting down to two goalies early gave both the best chance to be ready for the start of the season by maximizing their playing time and their practice reps. He’s also counting on them to provide the competition — and the support — to be at their best.
"I think me and Jordan have a pretty good friendship and healthy competition out there," Honey said. "We’re always helping each other get better on the ice, whether it’s just talking about stuff in a game or we’ve got the same goalie coach at home (in Edmonton), so there’s a lot of dialogue there. Just helping each other out."
ONE-TIMERS: After the Wheat Kings open the regular season Friday night (7:40, CKLQ) on the road against the Moose Jaw Warriors, the same teams will meet at Westman Place on Saturday in Brandon’s home opener. The Wheat Kings will hold a tailgate party with a barbecue, activities for kids and live music from 4-7:15 p.m., when the festivities will begin inside the arena.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 18, 2013