Sunday, July 29, 2012

Clouston eager to take next step

Daily News Sports Editor
Defeat, it seems, does not rest lightly on the shoulders of Connor Clouston.
“That was a tough loss,” Clouston, a 16-year-old defenceman from Medicine Hat, said Sunday afternoon after his Team White had dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Team Grey in the wrapup game at Team Pacific’s U-17 regional camp at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
The Grey guys got shootout goals from defenceman Ryan Gagnon of Quesnel and forward Ryan Graham of Calgary, while their goaltender, Jordan Papirny of Calgary, shut down Team White.
“It was a bad way to lose . . . in a shootout,” said Clouston. “But I thought we worked hard. I was pretty happy with what our team did.”
The game brought to an end a camp that had opened Wednesday, featuring 68 players —32 from Alberta and 36 from B.C. A final 22-player roster will be selected in November to play in the 2013 U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Drummondville and Victoriaville, Que., Dec. 28 through Jan. 4.
Team Pacific head coach Jason Becker, who is an assistant coach with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, said he really liked what he saw during the camp, especially in the latter days.
“On Friday and Saturday, the compete level was high,” Becker stated. “There was a lot of intensity. Now, we just have to let the process play itself out.”
That means team officials, like head scout Wade Klippenstein, who also works as Prince George’s assistant general manager and director of player personnel, keeping an eye on players over the early months of the approaching season.
Clouston, who was selected by Kamloops in the third round of the 2011 bantam draft, hopes Team Pacific people will be able to watch him play for the Blazers. The son of Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston, Connor plans on returning to Kamloops for the start of rookie camp on Aug. 25.
“My goal is to get a spot on the team,” said Clouston, who will start school here in September. “I just want to push for a spot on the team.”
When camp opens, the Blazers should have five veteran defencemen back from last season’s squad — Tyler Hansen, Marek Hrbas, Tyler Bell, Brady Gaudet and Landon Cross. So there definitely will be room for someone like Clouston, who is more of a Hansen-type player than an offensive whiz kid.
Asked to describe himself as a defenceman, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder Clouston replied: “Defensive defenceman . . . physical . . . shut down . . . good first pass.”
And is he mean enough to play that way in the WHL?
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a smile.
And that is pretty much how he played at the Team Pacific camp.
“I thought I had a good camp,” Clouston said. “I thought I stepped up to the occasion. There was tough competition out there, but it was about what I thought it was going to be.
“I worked hard and did my best. It was fun.”
Shaun Clouston was in attendance, too, watching his son as a father and not as a coach. He said he coached Connor early on during his minor hockey career, but gave it up because he wanted a father-son relationship as opposed to a coach-son thing.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a household rivalry between the Tigers’ head coach and his son, the potential Blazers defenceman.
“Definitely there is some friendly rivalry between me and my dad,” Connor said, laughing and adding that he does have a couple of Blazers caps and t-shirts that he has been known to wear.
“My dad doesn’t mind,” he said while stifling a laugh.
No, Dad doesn’t mind. At least, for now.
JUST NOTES: F Blake Penner of Medicine Hat and F Spencer Meyer of Surrey missed the camp due to injuries. F Logan Mick of Vernon and F Mitchell Barker of Kamloops were added in those spots. . . . F Brayden Point and F Tanner MacMaster, both of Calgary, scored for Team Grey in regulation time, with D Brandon Hickey of Leduc, Alta., and D Mitch Meek of Victoria replying for Team White. . . . Becker has been invited to work as a coach at Canada’s U-18 camp in Toronto, Aug. 3-6. F Matt Needham of the Blazers will attend that camp. . . . Hrbas, who is from Plzen, Czech Republic, is expected to see some action this week as that country’s U-20 team plays two exhibition games against Sweden.

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