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Final weekend of Sting hockey
dave borody march 16th, 2011

When you talk about rookies on the Sarnia Sting this season, names like Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk immediately come to mind.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially since both have enjoyed wonderful seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.
Indeed, Yakupov even set the team rookie record for most goals (47) and points in a season (46) and both players currently sit one-two in OHL rookie scoring.

However, there’s another rookie who has enjoyed a quiet, but effective rookie campaign with the Sting and that’s second round draft pick Garrett Hooey.

“When I came to camp last fall and heard that Garrett’s qualities were competing, character and drive, I was a little skeptical,” said interim head coach, Trevor Letowski. “But in my opinion he’s lived up to that billing. He is very driven to get better and if he keeps that up mentally, he’s only going to get better.”

Hooey sat down this week and talked about his first season in the OHL.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride. There have been quite a few ups and downs. In talking to my dad he kind of had the same thing his first year with Windsor in the OHL in the early 1980s. Their head coach was fired and they weren’t a top team. They were in a rebuilding stage.”

So what advice did he give you?

“Just keep working hard, stay the course and things will work out.”

Hooey was captain of the Clarington Toros minor midget team last season where he scored 41 goals and 54 assists for 95 points in 52 games. But he admits things are a little different in the OHL.

“Everyone has skill. One thing players do much better at this level is competing and work whether they get two shifts a game or 20. That’s something I strive hard to do.”

He added, “First and foremost I needed to work on my maturity level, both as a player and a person. I owe a lot of that to Brent Sullivan. He’s a well-spoken guy who taught me so much. He was also one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.”

Hooey has played 59 of 65 games for the Sting this season and has seven goals and three assists and 51 penalty minutes.

He will be in the lineup Thursday night when they host the Erie Otters in their final home game of the season beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre.

“There’s no doubt the first half of the season was a real learning experience for me. In the second half I’ve been more patient with the puck and not afraid to make a mistake. Mr. Letowski allows you to take more risks and I like that.”

But with that style of play, Hooey knows there is more responsibility involved.

“I know I have to look at the three 's' going forward. They are strength, size and skating. That will be my first priority this summer. It’s very important to get stronger and bigger. I need to spend more time in the gym and I’m willing to do that. I want to put up better numbers next season.”

Letowski says he’s seen a marked improvement with Hooey.

“His skating has improved. At camp he was a little behind. But he’s come a long way. If he keeps up that progress and development, he’s going to be a good player in this league.”

He added, “Garrett is a young guy who is not a dynamic player like Yakupov or Galchenyuk. He needs to work on his puck skills, his speed, getting stronger and adjusting to the pace of the game. But I see him as an important part of our team down the road. I think he can be that player called up to shut down the opposition’s top line and at the same time put up some good numbers.”

Letowski says it’s hard to teach character and competitiveness and believes Hooey has those two important ingredients to be a success in the OHL.

Hooey, who is from Hampton, admits being caught a little off-guard when the season began.

“It’s a lot tougher than what I expected. In one regard, it’s been a long season, but the games have gone by so quickly. It feels like only yesterday I was playing my first pre-season game in Windsor.

“But overall it’s been fun being a rookie. Every player has to go through it. I love it here in Sarnia, it’s a great place to play.”
Hooey received some extra experience this season when he was` chosen to play for Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Tournament in Winnipeg. The team captured a gold medal.

“That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, winning a gold medal. The feeling was awesome. Someday I’d like to have that same type of experience with the Sting winning a championship.”

Even though the Sting did not make the playoffs this season, Hooey believes the team is headed in the right direction.”

“Definitely things will be better next year. We have some great young players in Yakupov, Galchenyuk and (Brandon) Hope coming back and have some great leaders in Nathan Chiarlitti, Daniel Broussard and Brett Ritchie. Mr. Letowski has been pushing us hard lately and has been very positive.”

He added, “I also enjoy Alex (Galchenyuk Sr.) behind the bench. He has some great ideas and is creating a lot of one-on-one relationships. I see this team going in all the right directions.”

STING NOTES

- Being the final home game of the season Thursday, the team will honour all the land parents of the Sting in pre-game ceremonies. Also being honoured are the three current overagers—Troy Passingham, Tyler Peters and Kale Kerbashian.

- The team will also honour Sullivan, who spent three and half years with the Sting before being traded in January. Sullivan will attend Carlton University this fall.

- A special award will be presented to Yakupov for setting the rookie scoring record this season.

- Also the Sting will honour local athlete Derek Drouin, who recently tied the Canadian indoor high jump record with a jump of 2.33 metres while competing for Indiana University at a NCAA event in Texas.

- Sarnia will conclude its season with road games Friday night in London and Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
 

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