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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Willick's work ethic makes him leader with Blazers

Tyler Hansen (left), Colin Smith and Dylan Willick have been named
alternate captains of the Kamloops Blazers.

(Kamloops Blazers photo)
By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter

When Dylan Willick showed up at Kamloops Blazers training camp in August 2009, he felt he had no chance of making the WHL team’s roster.
He did, and now he’s preparing for his fourth season with the Blazers, who will open the regular season on tonight, 7 o’clock, against the Kelowna Rockets at Interior Savings Centre.
So how did he do it?
“I had a big growing year (2009), I got a lot bigger . . . and I owe a lot to that,” says Willick, a forward from Prince George. “And my work ethic made a big difference. I was willing to outwork the guy next to me, and that’s basically been my gameplan since.”
It’s that work ethic that not only got Willick onto the Blazers in the first place, it’s also what has made him one of their leaders these days.
He never would have imagined this when he showed up in Kamloops in 2009, fresh off a solid season with the major midget Cariboo Cougars.
“If you had asked me going into camp if I would make it, I’d have said I’d probably be back playing midget hockey in Prince George,” he says. “It was a bit of a surprise for me — but that happens sometimes, you go into tryouts and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Right from the start, Willick, who will turn 20 on Oct. 19, has been a great fit in Kamloops. In his first season, he had 29 points, including 12 goals.
He followed up by scoring 24 goals and assisting on 20 others in 2010-11, then counted 54 points, including 28 goals, last season.
He also is one of the team’s best penalty killers and spends time on the power play.
On top of that, he has been incredibly durable — through three seasons, he has only missed one game. On that occasion, Nov. 28, 2009, head coach Guy Charron benched three players after the Blazers had coughed up a four-goal lead in losing the night before.
Willick has picked up a lot of memories along the way.
“In my very first (exhibition) game with a visor . . . I got a stick in the face . . . but I think I got an assist on the play,” Willick says, with a laugh. “(Brendan) Ranford scored, and I don’t know how I got an assist — I just turned to get off the ice and guys were celebrating a goal.
“Not a great first experience in the visor, but there was a smile at the end of it all.”
And then he had some more bad luck in his first season.
“In my rookie year, three separate occasions I had stitches,” he adds. “Two sticks and one puck — with the puck, I basically bit through my lower lip.”
Of all the stories Willick has, he’s hoping to pen an ending worthy of his effort in his final WHL season.
He’s confident it will be another strong season, and why wouldn’t he be? Not only is he coming off an excellent 2011-12 season, but the Blazers also were stellar, winning the B.C. Division for the first time in 10 years and then advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Willick is one of the key players the Blazers hope will take them even farther this season, but he plans to be the same hard-working guy he’s always been.
“I’ve been on the team long enough — yeah, I’m a veteran and someone people look up to, and I take that into consideration,” he says. “But, personally, not much changes in what I do on or off the ice.”

The A’s Have It:
The Kamloops Blazers don’t have a captain.
At least for now.
Head coach Guy Charron said Thursday that forwards Dylan Willick and Colin Smith and defenceman Tyler Hansen will serve as the club’s alternate captains.
Charron added that the arrangement could be reviewed should defenceman Austin Madaisky be returned by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Madaisky could be reassigned so that’s a question mark,” Charron said. “We are very fortunate to have a good leadership group within our team. Unfortunately, we can’t give letters to everybody.”

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