Colemans Western Kings goaltender Ian Woolfrey does laps with the rest of the team during practice Wednesday at the Pepsi Centre. — Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
CORNER BROOK Ian Woolfrey is embracing the opportunity to seize the No. 1 goalie spot with the Colemans Western Kings in his sophomore season.
The 16-year-old Level 1 student at Corner Brook Regional High saw limited playing time as a King rookie one year ago when the boys from the west won the provincial major midget hockey crown by stunning the St. John’s Privateers in the league final. Daniel McCarthy carried the load between the pipes as the Kings cruised to the provincial title last year with Woolfrey watching from the bench as his back-up.
“It’s almost like you have to pay your dues before you move up,” Woolfrey said of his rookie campaign. “It’s hard coming in as a rookie, especially as a goaltender and trying to come in and take a starting position over two third-year guys.”
Woolfrey and Luke House are the puckstoppers for the Kings this year so they have a key role to play if the Kings want to return to the top of the pack again.
For Woolfrey, it was a challenge to watch from the sidelines but he’sgrateful for the experience of being immersed in a championship run.
“It was a bit difficult. I didn’t get much playing time, but I really want it bad this year to get the No. 1 job and I’ve been working hard at it,” he said.
He has a good relationship with his counterpart House and believes the two will continue to be supportive of each other no matter who patrols the crease on any given night.
But, he’s quick to point out he wants to the No. 1 job and looks forward to a healthy competition with House.
“It’s really something I have been looking forward to. Ever since the end of last year I’ve been focused on taking the No. 1 spot and being the best I can be for our team,” he said.
Woolfrey and House are good friends on and off the ice, but they both know what’s at stake when it comes to battling for playing time. Woolfrey, son of Corner Brook’s Paul and Fern Woolfrey and younger brother to Kings graduate Neil Woolfrey, believes the two goalies battling each other should prove to be a healthy competition.
“It’s good for us to push each other in practice and stuff, almost like you have to be better than him if you want the starting job,” he said.
The two puckstoppers have shared the goaltending duties in the early going, with Woolfrey 0-2 as the Kings hit the road this weekend for a two-game showdown with the St. John’s Maple Leafs at the Rogers Bussey Arena in St. John’s. While Woolfrey is poised to play well enough to earn the No. 1 job, he insists he’s not a guy to sulk when the other guy gets the call to protect the cage and supports the other guy through thick and thin because it’s part of being a solid teammate.
“You got to put the team before yourself,” he said. “If our coach decides that he’s the better man fit for the job tonight then I’ll support him 150 per cent.”
The Kings enter the weekend in fourth place with three points on a single victory, an overtime loss and two defeats in regulation time.
The Maple Leafs, holding down second spot behind league-leading Central Ice Pak with a 3-0-1 record, should provide the Kings with a tough test this weekend and Woolfrey believes the Kings will be ready.
The Kings have paid the price for turning the puck over in their own end of the rink and lapses in the defensive zone coverage in the early going, so Woolfrey believes a sound defensive effort from all hands is required to put some Ws on the board.
“We’ve been working on our breakouts and defensive coverage a lot and I think that will show this weekend,” he said.
“Getting the puck out of our own zone was a problem against Central (on opening weekend) and we’re really working on that now because you have to take care of your own end of the rink first,” he added.
The Kings battle the Maple Leafs Saturday 5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. at Rogers Bussey Arena in St. John’s.