Eric Roy smiles during a lighter moment in Tuesday’s Wheat Kings practice. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Eric Roy is turning into quite the marksman.
The Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman has always had a knack for scoring big goals, counting six game-winners among his 24 tallies in the past two seasons. Now, he’s the Wheat Kings’ hottest goal-scorer, period.
The lanky 18-year-old blue-liner has bent the twine six times in his last nine games and his 13 goals this season are only two short of the team lead for current Wheat Kings shared by rookies Jayce Hawryluk and Tim McGauley.
"At the start of the year I wasn’t really shooting too much," said Roy, who recorded his first Western Hockey League two-goal game in Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Regina Pats. "Lately, I’ve been shooting and … (the puck has) been going in for me so far."
Curiously, Roy doesn’t have a single assist during that stretch — his last apple was 10 games ago — and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"The team kind of bugs me a bit that I’m a bit selfish, but it’s just fun and games," Roy grinned.
Roy’s recent scoring prowess has coincided with a general upturn in the quality of his overall game after a disappointing first half for a player that finished 10th among all WHL blue-liners with 53 points in 69 games last season.
Ranked 39th among North American skaters for this year’s National Hockey League Entry Draft by NHL Central Scouting, Roy credits the tips and confidence he got from playing in the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game in Halifax last month.
"I’ve been keeping things simple," said Roy, who has 31 points in 57 games this season. "Ever since I got back from Halifax my confidence level has really been there and I’ve just been coming to the rink and working hard. Good things are starting to happen for me."
While his plus/minus rating of -24 this season is disappointing, he has been +3 in his last 14 games and Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said he’s noticed a difference in Roy’s performance going back even a little further than the Top Prospects Game.
"We all feel that he’s really, really come on since Christmastime," Gylywoychuk said. "When he got back from the break, it was almost like he had something to prove. He’s really dug in and played well for us. He’s scored some big goals. … With (Ryan) Pulock being out and now with (Tyler) Yaworski being out, he’s put in situations where he’s had to log some more time and he’s benefitted from it. I think his five-on-five play, his defensive game, his all-around game has really improved and his compete level has come up."
Sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 20-33-2-2 record, Brandon is 15 points behind the Medicine Hat Tigers — who are tonight’s opponent — and the Lethbridge Hurricanes for the final two playoff spots. Roy said the Wheat Kings aren’t ready to give up on that post-season goal and the climb has to start tonight.
"We can’t catch teams without winning," he said. "We’re quite a ways out. We’ve got to start winning some games and hopefully we win (tonight)."
ONE-TIMERS: Yaworski will serve the fourth game of his six-game suspension tonight, while Brandon G Corbin Boes (knee, indefinite), RW/LW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, indefinite) and C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) are also out … Brandon native and WHL official Matt Kirk has been chosen as a referee for the IIHF men’s world championship, May 3-19 in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 13, 2013