Having stepped back into the fray after an excruciating six-game wait, Tyler Yaworski is determined to make the most of his rapidly dwindling days in the Western Hockey League.
The 20-year-old defenceman returned to the Brandon Wheat Kings lineup Monday against the Saskatoon Blades after serving a six-game suspension for a check to the head that concussed Regina Pat Luke Fenske. With the end of his final WHL season in sight, Yaworski is trying to savour every chance he gets to step on the ice.
"Obviously it was hard watching but it was good to be back," said Yaworski, who picked up two minor penalties and was even in plus/minus in the Wheat Kings’ 5-1 loss to the Blades. "I try not to think about (how little time is left) to be honest because it’s been such a good run, a good four years, so I’m just trying to enjoy every minute of it and soaking everything up."
While Yaworski was out of the lineup, the Wheat Kings went 2-3-1-0, failing to make up any ground in the playoff race. At 21-35-3-2, they’re 13 points out of a spot with only 11 games to play, but despite that Yaworski said he’s encouraging his teammates to finish the season the right way.
"I think playing for the Wheat Kings you have to have a lot of pride and although we’re not in a little bit of a playoff run here, it’s good to finish off on a good note," the 6-foot-4, 205-pound native of Sherwood Park, Alta., said.
"I’ve kind of been in this situation a couple times before … and just trying to make sure that everyone knows the season’s not over until it’s over. There’s still a lot to play for."
Acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders prior to the season, Yaworski has scored three goals and assisted on six others in 52 games, but the important stats for him are his team-leading plus/minus of +6 and his 133 penalty minutes showing his efforts to make the Wheat Kings’ defensive zone an unpleasant place for opposing forwards.
With two suspensions totalling 10 games this season, he’s occasionally gone a little bit too far in that regard, and Yaworski admits that the game has changed since he first entered the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades four years ago. Even with as few games as he has left in the league, Yaworski said he needs to adapt without totally changing what got him to the WHL in the first place.
"Obviously my game is being a physical presence and being a shutdown ‘D’," he said. "And if I’m not playing physical, I don’t think that I’m playing my game."
INJURY UPDATE: The Wheat Kings’ updated roster report this week suggests some progress for a pair injured players.
Goalie Corbin Boes, who has missed the past 12 games with a knee injury, is now listed as day-to-day, while Czech forward Richard Nejezchleb, out the past 18 games after suffering a cut to his hand, has had his timetable set at two weeks.
Forward Tyrel Seaman, out indefinitely with a concussion, remains listed as week-to-week on the official injury report.