Friday, September 10, 2010

Oilers’ head coach steps down on eve of opener

by John Barlow - Editor - Western Wheel

As the team was boarding the bus for their season opener in Camrose on Friday the Okotoks Junior A Oilers learned they would be doing so without their head coach.

On the eve of the 2010-2011 season Oiler head coach and general manager Garry VanHereweghe abruptly announced he was stepping down effective immediately and associate coach Chris Fuss will be the interim bench boss until a replacement can be found.

A tired looking VanHereweghe was sitting at his desk Friday afternoon as the team prepared to head to Camrose and said he was stepping aside for personal reasons and it was the best decision for himself, his family, the organization and, most importantly, the players.

“Now was the time,” said VanHereweghe who added a different personality was needed behind the bench.

“Obviously, I am not the right fit for the players’ expectations and the organization’s expectations,” said VanHereweghe. “They need someone who is a more suitable match for these players.”

He said the Oilers are an outstanding organization and with the players currently on the roster Okotoks will have a strong team this season. However, during an extremely competitive camp where rookies were pushing veterans for roster spots it became clear to VanHereweghe he was not the man to lead them this season.

“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “This is a great group of kids and it is tough to walk away, but they felt we were not going in the right direction.

“From the perspective of the team and where they want to go they have to be comfortable with the coach and if they do not fully trust the coach it is not going to work.”

VanHereweghe said stepping off the bench and retaining his GM duties was not an option either. He said he needed to severe the ties completely.

Okotoks is now actively searching for a new head coach and it is unlikely one will be found within the organization.

Fuss was offered the position and he agreed to take on the duties for the interim, but could not commit to being the head coach long-term.

“It would not be fair to the team or myself,” said Fuss who is entering his fourth season with the Oilers. “They need someone who is fully committed. This was not an easy decision.”

The other two assistants, Lyle Seitz and Rocky Zinger, will remain on the staff as well.

Fuss said with his commitments at home and with his own business he could not take on the head coach’s duties.

Fuss said having to find a new coach at this time of the season is difficult for the players, but the dressing room includes some strong leaders who will ensure the team focuses on hockey.

Oilers associate coach Chris Fuss is now the team’s interim head coach while the organization searches for Garry VanHereweghe’s replacement.
“We have strong leaders, strong character kids and they will find a way,” said Fuss. “We have a job to do.”

Oiler veteran Kyle Reynolds said the coaching change will not be a distraction for the players who will focus on what they need to do on the ice.

Reynolds, a third year Oiler, and many of his teammates went through a similar experience last season when VanHereweghe returned to the club to replace coach Dan MacDonald who was released just a month into the season.

“It is part of hockey, part of the game — guys come in and guys go out — we can’t worry about it,” said Reynolds of the coaching change. “We just need to focus on playing hockey.

“I am surprised, but if your heart is not in it then you shouldn’t stay. Garry was a great coach, and I think I can speak for all of the players when I say that. He is going to be missed.”

After a dismal 2-9 start under MacDonald last season VanHereweghe stepped in and guided the Oilers to a 38-18-1-3 record and the club’s first South Division title.

Reynolds said the team was able to rebound after a coaching change last season and he said that experience will be beneficial this time.

“We need to put this behind us and focus on getting a good start to the season and get some wins,” he said.

Oiler president Wayne Lauinger said the organization is disappointed to lose VanHereweghe, who was the team’s coach during their inaugural season in 2005-2006 until 2007-2008, but he added they must respect his decision.

“We hoped he would stay on in some capacity, but we have to move on without Garry VanHereweghe,” said Lauinger. “This organization will have the same principles and philosophies and we have been successful before because of people like Garry and we will continue to be successful.”

Lauinger admitted there is never an opportune time to lose your head coach and general manager, but he said it is better now when the team is still under construction.

He said there are no names on his wish list for a new head coach, but he said there will be no shortage of interest.

VanHereweghe agreed there will be interest as the Oilers are a coveted destination not only for players, but coaches as well.

“I don’t think I have had an opportunity to coach with a better organization than the Okotoks Oilers,” said VanHereweghe. “I will always support the Oilers.”

For prospective coaches, VanHereweghe said despite the turmoil to start the season they could not find a team with better potential than the Oilers.

“This is a good team and whoever walks in here is walking into a good situation.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oilers training camp, week 2

by Bruce Campbell - Sports Editor - Western Wheel

A smaller camp has allowed the Okotoks Junior A Oilers’ coaching staff to have a stronger focus on the players trying to make the team’s 2010-2011 roster.

“We started with less than half the number of players at camp than we did last year,” said Okotoks Oilers coach Garry VanHereweghe. “I think with the smaller numbers the players can see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than when you have a 100 guys.”

The Oilers started camp on Aug. 24 and have played a pair of exhibition games with the Calgary Canucks. They lost 5-2 in Calgary on Friday and won in overtime 3-2 on Saturday night at the Centennial Arena in Okotoks.

However, wins and losses in the exhibition season are like campaign speeches — they don’t mean much but you have to decipher what’s going on to make a wise choice.

“If there is one area that I would like to see more of, it is intensity,” VanHereweghe said. “We have now played two games and an entire camp and we haven’t seen any altercations… We don’t condone that but at the same time we need to know that we are big and tough enough to look after matters as a team.. If there is one area we have to improve it’s in-your-face hockey.”

One spot where the Oilers are not lacking intensity is in net. VanHereweghe has a glut of goalies at camp and he indicated the team may have to carry three goalies at the start of the season.

Okotoks has goalies Sean Cahill and Michael Matyas returning from last year’s South Division championship team, and rookies Jared D’Amico and Riley Parker from the Notre Dame Hounds, who won the Canadian Midget AAA championship last year are also in camp.

Goalie Tyler Hughes, who played for the Okotoks Midget AA Oilers last season was released despite a good outing at camp and a solid performance in allowing one goal in 30 minutes of play in the Oilers’ 3-2 victory Saturday.

Tyler came into a tough situation and he didn’t play his way off the team,” VanHereweghe said. “It was a numbers thing and us knowing we had two returning goalies and others in the mix. He responded very well.”

He said Hughes is likely going to Melville to try out for the Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior A Hockey League.

VanHereweghe said the 16-year-old D’Amico might have had the most impressive camp with winning five of the six intra-squad games for which he was in net.

The Oilers have 13 veterans returning from last year’s roster and they are being pushed by a strong group of 17-year–old players. However, there’s been no hostility towards the young guys.

“One thing I have been impressed with is the leadership of the vets and helping the younger kids,” VanHereweghe said. “I think the leadership and direction among the guys at camp is one of the best I have ever seen in my Junior A career.”

VanHereweghe said returning Oiler Nolan Huysmans has been impressive in camp.

“The kid has shown up and has been a front-runner in main camp and carried that into the exhibition game when he scored our first goal (against the Canucks) Saturday,” VanHereweghe said. “He is more physical and brought character and leadership.”

The Oilers must have their roster trimmed to 25 players by Dec. 1. However, VanHereweghe said he expects to have his numbers down to approximately 23 players by mid December.

The Oilers’ first regular season game is Sept. 10 when they travel to Camrose to take on the Kodiaks.

Okotoks’ home opener is Friday Sept. 17 when the St. Albert Steel come to the Centennial Arena at 7 p.m.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oilers name Captains for the 2010/11 season

by Bruce Campbell - Sports Editor - The Western Wheel

Alberta Junior A Hockey referees won’t have to take a second glance to see which of the two Okotoks Junior A Oilers captains are wearing the C for a particular game.
All they have to do is listen.

One captain, Jeff Barrett, doesn’t say much while the other, Ben Gamache, can talk like Calgary Stampede track announcer Les McIntyre after drinking a pot of coffee.

“Ben has a little more rah, rah in him while I am a little more quiet,” Barrett said with a laugh. “I have the ability to speak up when I have to. I think the two of us will make a really good team together as captains.”

Head coach Garry VanHereweghe and the Oilers’ coaching staff selected Barrett and Gamache as captains last June. The pair will work similar to how it was done last year when Chris Duszynski and Brandon Hoogenboom shared the captaincy and led the team to their first South Division title in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The selection left the 19-year-old Gamache speechless, well, for a while anyway.

“I didn’t expect it,” Gamache said. “I thought I would have to work my way up the ranks. We have a lot of quality 20-year-olds coming back. ”

His job will to keep all the players up and focused.

“I like to talk positive on and off the ice and try to step up and do what it takes to make the team successful,” he said.

It’s not the first time Gamache has worn a “C”. He was the captain of the Notre Dame Hounds when they won the Midget AAA national championship in 2009.

Former champions are the kind of people VanHereweghe wants in the dressing room.

“You want the guys who have won before and provide that kind of leadership on the team,” VanHereweghe said.

The trend is continuing because the captain of the 2010 national champion Hounds, Scott Bolland, is also at the Oilers camp.

Gamache played in 58 games last season with the Oilers and contributed 11 goals and 19 assists. Although he was one of the smaller Oilers at five-foot-seven and 185 pounds, the feisty Gamache had 89 minutes in penalties. He shone in the Oilers’ opening round of the playoffs when he had nine points in six games against the Canmore Eagles.

However, he was injured in the Oilers’ loss in five games to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the league’s semifinal series.

“It was a clean hit, that’s just part of hockey,” he said of his injury.

Barrett missed 29 games last season. Though it was frustrating, he said watching from the stands might have helped him prepare for becoming a captain.

“I would come into the dressing room and tell the boys what I saw,” Barrett said. “I sat and watched 30 plus games and you see things different than when you are in the game and on the bench.”

When Barrett got back from his injury he was put on a line with Derek Rodwell and Duszynski. The big line not only put the puck in the net, but also knocked down plenty of bodies.

The six-foot-two, 200-pound Barrett is entering his third year with the Oilers. Last season he finished seventh on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 21 assists in just 31 games.

Barrett said watching Duszynski and Hoogenboom share the captaincy proved the system works.

“If there is an issue with one of the captains there is always someone there to back him up,” said the 20-year-old Barrett. “There’s also two points of view. Plus one game you might be wearing an A and the next game you are wearing a C. So it creates more cohesiveness with the team.”

It’s important to remember the C not only stands for captain but also class. The captains are just members of the team.

“It’s crucial that you don’t start thinking you are the big cheese,” Barrett said. “You are just one of the guys. If someone asks you to do something you jump right to attention and vice-versa. In the dressing room everyone is at the same level.”

The captain also acts as a liaison at times between the players, VanHereweghe and the coaching staff. That’s a two-way street though. If there’s a problem it is also the captain’s job to maybe knock on the coach’s door and say: “Hey Garry, there’s a tiny, tiny chance you might be wrong.”

“If there’s some issues going on, you have to deal with it,” Barrett said. “Garry’s got a great open-door policy, and he’s open to do all sorts of different ideas.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some oddities

This years edition of the WMBL Okotoks Dawgs saw a couple of rare plays in the field. Sure, there were the numerous double plays, home runs, arguments and ejections, but there were also 2 rare plays you don't see in baseball too often.

Unfortunatley, both of the plays went AGAINST the Okotoks Dawgs.

We saw a rare grand slam homerun for the visitors one night and it was on a night where the hometown Dawgs just couldn't come back for the win.

The second rarity was a triple play. With runners on first and second and no one out, the at bat Dawgs player belted a low fly ball that was immediately caught by the visiting teams second baseman for out one, then tagged the second base for out two, then whizzed the ball to first base for out three.

Yep, the regular season was over in a bat of an eyelash. Now it's on with the real season, the playoffs.

Go Dawgs Go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Now it feels like baseball.

So our holidays are over and the sun is out. Kind of reminds us of summer. Oh, ya, it IS summer and the boys are a dozen games into this season. The ballpark still buzzes with every pitch so it must be on.

The new uniforms are just OK, but I like the old ones better. The O on the ballcaps don't bring excitement to me neither. But the team on the field is what it's all about and they look good.

Lets keep packing the ballpark. It's a great atmosphere at Seamans Stadium in Okotoks. Now we just need the weather to co-operate. We burnt up on a Sunday afternoon game, then froze a couple of nights later. Gotta love Southern Alberta weather.

So Go Dawgs Go, and Come Fans Come to a great night of baseball entertain. This is a class organization.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New season about to start for the Okotoks Dawgs

So we have just had a late May snowstorm and Okotoks is covered in snow. In one week the 2010 edition of the Okotoks Dawgs baseball team will hit the field to a standing room only crowd. Yep, only in Alberta.

This years team is basically a completely new team of players from the college and university levels from all over North America with a few ex- junior Dawgs and a few veteran pitchers from last years championship Dawgs team.

Can the team bring in the championship for the 4th year in a row. After last seasons playoff feasco with the Melville Millionaires, we can only hope for a clean run to the championship.

But if not, it is still a great place and a great sport to pass a few hours of our lives.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Season ends for our Okotoks Oilers

Well, the Okotoks Oilers seasons has come to an end. It was a good season with a few records broken and a first place finish in the Southern Division of the AJHL.
They gave us some good entertainment for 7 months and drew just about 30,000 visitors to the rink.

Now a quick break in our local sports action here in Okotoks and then on to Dawgs baseball. June will come quick enough.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Coaching change key to Oilers’ turnaround

Sometimes a change is a whole lot better than the status quo.

The Okotoks Junior A Oilers were being left for dead when Garry VanHereweghe took over behind the bench from Dan MacDonald in early October as coach and general manager.

In fact when VanHereweghe lost his first game as head coach on Oct. 5 to the Calgary Canucks, the Oilers fell to last place. Nearly five months later, the Oilers clinched their first South Division regular season title when they beat the Canmore Eagles 5-0 Thursday.

The Oilers finished the regular season by winning their last five games, including Sunday’s 7-1 victory over the Drumheller Dragons at the Centennial Arena. Okotoks finished the season 38-18-1-3 and their 80 points was five more than the second-place Camrose Kodiaks. When VanHereweghe took over Okotoks was 3-6, but the turnaround has been remarkable. Since VanHereweghe took over as the Oilers’ bench boss the team’s record has been 35-12-1-3.

Garry has done a heck of a job,” Oilers president Wayne Lauinger said after the Oilers’ victory in Canmore. “For us to finish in first place when at one time I think we were down by 18 points to Camrose in the standings, is remarkable.”

Lauinger said MacDonald was an important part of the Oilers the past two years, in which the team finished second in the regular season. However, they were upset in the second round of the AJHL playoffs each year.

When the Oilers started the 2009-10 season slower than a sloth on Valium, the team’s board of directors felt it was time for a change.

Dan did a lot of good things for this team,” Lauinger said. “Sometimes after a while the team stops listening to the coach’s message.”

Oilers forward John McInnis agreed.

Garry gave us a fresh-start,” said McInnis, who set a team record with 42 goals this year. “At the start of the season, we had high expectations and we weren’t reaching them. The way things were going it was really a tough time.

Dan was a great coach, I learned a lot from him,” McInnis said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t getting the results we wanted.”

When VanHereweghe took over last fall, he said the team had a lot of things to work on. He credits the young men in the Oilers’ dressing room for getting that work done.

VanHereweghe’s focus upon returning to the bench was to work on the Oilers’ defensive zone play which was criticized for being too soft and passive early in the season.

“Not only did they work hard, but after that first game against Calgary (Oct. 5) it was evident we were making a lot of mistakes in our defensive zone,” VanHereweghe said. “We broke it down, not quite from scratch, but the players accepted it and worked at it.”

He added the players are a close-knit group who have shown resiliency.

VanHereweghe said the team has persevered throughout the year, despite obstacles such as losing Corban Knight to the University of North Dakota just before training camp, the loss of a coach and injuries that kept Oilers trainer Kirsten Kidd busy all year.

“We didn’t have a healthy scratch until our 50th game of he season,” VanHereweghe said. “This team has overcome quite a few obstacles.”

Oiler captain Chris Duszynski said having to grind their way from the bottom to the top will help the Oilers when they start the playoffs on March 7 against a yet-to-be determined opponent. The Oilers earned a first-round bye.

“In the past two years, we sailed through the regular season,” Duszynski said. “When the playoffs rolled along we didn’t have the ability to battle back, or change our play.

“This year we had a bit of adversity at the start and throughout the season. We have learned how to battle and take our losses and turn it around.”

Oilers clinch first place.

The Okotoks Oilers are saying hello to their first championship in their history and saying bye-bye to the opening round of the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The Oilers clinched the AJHL’s South Division when they blanked the Canmore Eagles 5-0 in Canmore Thursday.

The Okotoks’ victory gave the Oilers a 36-18-1-3 record (76 points).

Okotoks had the chance to clinch the title last night when the Bonnyville Pontiacs beat the Camrose Kodiaks 5-4 in Bonnyville Wednesday night.

The Kodiaks have 74 points with only one game left on their schedule. However, the Oilers have the tiebreaker because they have more wins than Camrose.

The Oilers came out against the Eagles with the full knowledge that they could clinch the South Division with a win.

It showed.

They came out with the pedal to the medal exploding with four goals in the opening eight minutes for the 4-0 lead.

The Oilers Cody Dion, Nolan Huysmans, Jeff Barrett and John McInnis scored first period goals for the Oilers.

It was McInnis’ 37th of the year as he strives for his personal goal of 40 in a season.

The Oilers all-time leading scorer, Chris Duszynski, closed out the scoring with a goal in the opening minute of the third period.

Meanwhile Oilers goalie Sean Cahill could have watched the Canada-Swiss hockey game he saw so little action.

The Oilers’ stingy defence held the Eagles to just 18 shots, all of which Cahill handled.

Duszynski called the win an important one in the team’s history, but one they have to put immediately behind them.

“We have been second best both years I have been here (prior to 2009-10),” Duszynski said. “But after tonight, we put this to rest because we have got bigger fish to fry.”

The Oilers on Feb. 19 against the Calgary Canucks at the Centennial Arena. Their final regular season game is Sunday at the Centennial Arena at 1:30 p.m. when they take on the Drumheller Dragons.

#21 John McInnis

An Okotoks Junior A Oiler set a goal back in September of scoring 40 goals this season. It was a quite a lofty mark considering the Oilers’ team record was 34 goals in a season.

Turns out, Oiler John McInnis was selling himself short. The Oiler forward scored six goals in the Oilers’ final three games of the Alberta Junior Hockey League season to finish the year with 42 goals.

“I set my goal for 40,” McInnis said after scoring his 37th in the Oilers’ 5-0 victory over the Canmore Eagles on Thursday in Canmore. “I like to put pressure on myself and hopefully it all works out.”

The native of Plymouth, Mass. got to 40 goals with a hat trick in the Oilers’ 8-5 victory over the Calgary Canucks Friday night at the Centennial Arena. (Number 40 was into an empty net).

He notched two more in the Oilers’ last game of the season, a 7-1 win over the Drumheller Dragons, to finish the year at 42.

At the start of the season, McInnis was on pace to score a less-than-whopping six goals in the 2009-10 campaign.

“In the first 10 games I only had one goal,” McInnis said. “I was really struggling, the whole team was. Then I got a couple and started to relax.”

McInnis finished the season with 42 goals and 31 assists. He credits much of his success to linemates Brandon Hoogenboom and Cody Dion. All three members of the line finished in the top five in team scoring.

“I think we all bring something different to the table,” McInnis said. “We also share some of the same things. Whenever one of us gets the puck, we go to the net.”

Both Dion and McInnis take shots on goals like they were using a Gatlin gun rather than a stick — the more shots on net, the more likely one will get by a goalie.

“I might not score a lot of pretty goals, but when the situation presents itself, I do what I have to do,” McInnis said.

The previous record of 34 was set last season by Corban Knight, who is playing for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, one of the top NCAA teams in the United States.

There is no comparing the two players, according to the new record holder.

There is no comparison,” McInnis said. “Knighter is in a league of his own. He was so smart with the puck and saw the ice so well.

“I am more of a guy who has to work for everything he can get.”

Hoogenboom said neither he nor Dion did anything different to get McInnis his record.

“We were too focused on getting first place, we were playing the same way,” Hoogenboom said.

“He is just a guy who gets in the right spot at the right time.

“It also doesn’t hurt that he has one of the hardest shots in the league — either a slapshot or a wristshot.”

McInnis is close to committing to Union College in New York.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

#17, Oiler Jeff Barrett

An Okotoks Oiler went on an anti-Atkins diet over the summer and is now throwing some meaty checks around the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season.

“I put on about 15 pounds over the summer,” said Oiler forward Jeff Barrett. “It’s definitely noticeable out there. When someone comes to hit me they kind of bounce off. I worked out a lot and ate as much food as I could. I was able to turn most of the carbs I ate into muscle.”

Barrett stands six-foot-two and weighs 200 pounds.

Confidence has given his game as much of a boost as the extra muscle. He admited to be a little awestruck in his first year with the Oilers last season.

“Just having that year under your belt really opened up my eyes,” the 19-year-old said. “Coming in as a vet gave me a lot more confidence in my ability.”
Barrett has missed a large part of the season because he was recovering from a torn MCL in his knee suffered in the fifth game of the year. Although not as serious as the dreaded torn ACL, which would have likely ended his season, Barrett has played just 18 of the Oilers’ 47 games going into the weekend.

He said he is now close to 100 per cent health wise.

“I think I’m supposed to take care of my own end and put a few in the back of the net,” Barrett said. “In Midget, I scored quite a bit and I lost it some last year. I am starting to get it back.”

He has seven goals and nine assists in his 18 games this season. Barrett finished with 10 goals and 16 assists last season.

Barrett is playing on an all-purpose line with veterans Derek Rodwell and Chris Duszynski.

“Since Jeff got back, he has been one of our best players,” said Oilers assistant coach Chris Beston. “I don’t think that line has a designated role. They are good at everything.”

The reason the trio was put together is obvious to the eye.

“Size,” Oilers head coach Garry VanHereweghe said. “They are three guys who have an extremely hard work ethic. They skate in straight lines, they don’t dipsy-doodle all over the place. They are big and strong and a great line for forechecking and get the puck in deep. They pressure the puck very well… It’s a valuable line that we can put in any situation.”

Rodwell is six-foot-two and 200 pounds while and Duszynski tips the Toledo at 185 pounds on his six-foot frame.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

4 Oilers named to 2009/2010 All-Star team

A rugged Okotoks hockey player was named to his first all-star game since he was a Peewee.

Forward Derek Rodwell was one of four Okotoks Oilers selected for the South team, which will play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League all-star game on Jan. 30 in Fort McMurray.

The other Oilers selected were captain Brandon Hoogenboom, defenceman Quinn Sproule and goalie Sean Cahill who will make his second appearance at the all-star game.

Rodwell, who was a fifth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the NHL draft in June, is looking forward to the experience.

“I haven’t been in an all-star game since about Peewee, so it will be something new and exciting,” Rodwell said. “It’s great to be recognized, but I have to stay focused on playing my game and not trying to be someone else.”

Rodwell’s game is doing the things that might not show up on the AJHL stat sheets.

“A lot of things like finishing your checks, your face-offs, don’t show up on the score sheet,” said Rodwell, a Holy Trinity Academy graduate. “Just because I don’t get a point doesn’t mean I haven’t contributed.”

Rodwell is a third-year Oiler. The ‘A’ on his jersey means he has to do more than slam bodies and win face-offs.

“Being one of the older guys I have more of a leadership role,” Rodwell said. “I can tell the guys what to expect against the other teams.”

It’s not like he’s been totally absent from the score sheet, however. He is sixth on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 17 assists. Rodwell will join former Oilers Corban Knight and goalie Bradley Eidsness with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux next season.

Hoogenboom is also making his first trip to the all-star game. His hard work and commitment the past two years has paid off and he is having his best season as an Oiler.

“I had a real good start to the season and I think that helped me get selected,” Hoogenboom said. “I have been happy with the way I have been playing. I have improved in the defensive zone. That’s helped me quite a lot because it gives me the opportunity to jump into the rush and make plays.”

Hoogenboom, a forward, is third on the Oilers in scoring with 20 goals and 13 assists. Fans going to the Centennial Arena may not be aware of it, but Hoogenboom wears the C on his jersey for half their games. He is their captain for road games while Chris Duszynski wears the C at home.

Sometimes Hoogenboom has to keep the team in check.

“We have blown three-goal leads at times and as a captain, that can get frustrating,” the Nanton native said. “They might be getting a little too cocky and you have to keep them under wraps.”

Hoogenboom was selected as a starter for the game. The third-year Oiler has not yet committed to a university hockey team.

Sproule was also selected to the starting lineup.

Garry (Oiler coach Garry VanHereweghe) has worked with me on being more of a physical player and finishing the body,” the Oiler defenceman said.

He’s got more body to throw around. He put on 15 pounds by hitting the weights in the summer.

“Right now, we have more of a defensive mindset because we have some injuries on the blueline,” Sproule said. “So I haven’t had the chance to wheel-and-deal as much.”

Sproule, a former UFA Midget AAA Bison, has six goals and nine assists and has committed to the University of Alaska-Anchorage next year.

Cahill is making his second straight appearance in the all-star game. However, being a goalie at an all-star game is like attending your high school graduation ceremony — sure it’s an honour but you know it’s going to be a long evening.

“Our team lost 14-13 and I gave up six goals,” Cahill said with a laugh. “It’s kind of expected. No one is playing defence or taking the body. It’s really freewheeling.”

He was surprised to be invited to the all-star goalfest this season.

“I had a rough start to the year, so yeah, I was surprised I got picked,” Cahill said. His play turned around in November and recently he was named the Oilers’ number one goalie by VanHereweghe.

“It builds your confidence and gets you on a roll. When you play back-to-back games it helps a lot,” he said, adding that the strong play of Oiler rookie goalie Mike Matyas has also pushed him to be better between the pipes.

The Oilers’ improved play defensively has also made him look better.

Garry has been preaching defence ever since he has been here,” Cahill said. He has a 13-5-1 record with a goals against average of 3.01 and a save percentage of 90.55. He will attend University of Alaska-Anchorage after his Oiler career is finished.

Although the Oilers have four players going to the game, VanHereweghe said players like the team’s top scorers, John McInnis and Duszynski, could have also been named.

He said the Oilers are like other teams in the league – only so many players can be selected.

McInnis, who is leading the team with 43 points (22 goals and 21assists), took not being selected in stride.

“I would have liked to go, but it’s not a big deal,” McInnis said. “I’m happy for these guys. Maybe next year.”

Former Oiler Mason Conway, now a member of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, was selected to the North Division all-star team.