The hockey world’s best kept secret (part two)
In my mind the most intriguing part of the Golden Hawks men’s hockey team is the forward corps. With 10 different rookies seeing playing time up front so far this season, it has been a process to build chemistry and familiarity among this crop. Nevertheless, a few of them have done very well, reflecting a fine job of recruiting and rebuilding by both departed head coach Kelly Nobes, and current bench boss Greg Puhalski.
Yet while the freshmen play a big role, two veterans have been the most consistent forwards for the purple and gold; and those men will need to continue to be big down the stretch run and in tough games against high quality opposition.
Here is a rundown of Laurier’s top attackers:
#27 Jean-Michel Rizk; 6’2, 200 lbs, Dunham, Quebec – There is little secret among the teams of the OUA who Laurier’s go-to-guy is; and that man is Hawk Captain Jean-Michel Rizk. He can play in any situation, with any line mates, at centre or the wing, and still be a dominant difference maker in any game. Possessing good size, tremendous tenacity, a great shot, and smooth hands, Rizk is a former Minnesota Wild prospect and member of Team Canada at the 2004 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championships (along with such names as Kris Versteeg of the Leafs, Jeff Schultz of the Capitals, and World Juniors participant and current Anaheim Duck Kyle Chipchura.)
Since his unbelievable sophomore season when he scored a remarkable 54 points in 27 games, Rizk’s numbers have been more solid than sensational (though matching a season like that would have to be something special). Yet he is a leader on and off the ice, and makes something happen every time he touches the puck. When big number 27 is on the ice for the purple and gold, the opposition defense take notice; and so should you.
On another note, Rizk was selected to play in the up-coming Winter Universiade for Team Canada’s National University Team along with the best players in the OUA that takes place in Turkey in late January and early February.
#8 Thomas Middup; 5’10, 172 lbs, Richmond Hill, Ontario – The sleek, and slight Middup has the potential for rookie of the year honours among all Laurier athletes, as well as in the OUA. Currently sitting tied for fourth among OUA rookies, and number one among Golden Hawk scorers, the Richmond Hill-native plays on the first power play line, and has been sublime playing alongside Laurier’s other leading scorer; veteran Ryan Bellows.
In his junior career he spent parts of four seasons in five different places, plying his trade with the Tier II Junior ‘A’ Aurora Tigers; the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, Kingston Frontenacs, and Niagara IceDogs; and the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. Now the Hawks are fortunate the sniper has landed in Waterloo. He is a superb passer, and works hard to get into scoring areas despite being a smaller guy. As well, he possesses the speed to be highly effective off the rush, as he has demonstrated time and again this year.
#23 Ryan Bellows; 6’0, 195 lbs, St. Catharines, Ontario – The St. Catharines-native has been a consistent point-per-game producer throughout his three years at Laurier, and so it is no surprise that he is doing the same thing again this season. With 20 points in 19 games thus far, Bellows (who played NCAA Division I hockey with Dartmouth and OHL hockey with the Barrie Colts) has been wonderful on the wing with the aforementioned Middup, and fellow veteran Colin Williams. His wrister is deathly accurate, while his passing vision is probably tops among Golden Hawk forwards; owing to the fact that he leads the team in assists with 14, and points with 20.
#26 Mitchell Good; 6’1, 200 lbs, Wellesley, Ontario – The former captain of the Junior B Stratford Cullitons is an exciting speedster with great hands, and a penchant for making something out of nothing with the puck. As he has become more and more accustomed to the university game, he has gained an ever greater comfort level, exhibiting his tremendous talent while also maintaining a rugged toughness befitting a player of his solid size and strength.
#38 Benjamin Skinner; 6’1, 210 lbs, Markham, Ontario – It may be a long time before Ben can quit answering questions about his superstar younger brother Jeff (who just happens to be a rookie of the year candidate in the NHL with Carolina), but the elder Skinner has a style and a value all on his own for this Golden Hawk squad. Friendly, inviting, and polite off the ice, Ben is anything but on it. He is at his best when he is tenacious, hitting everything in the sight and going to the dirty areas of the ice to do just about anything he can to help the team win.
Although he only has five goals in 19 games to date, he has an uncanny ability to score the big one when the team needs it most. For example, he netted both goals in a 2-1 upset of powerhouse Western in London in early January, handing the Mustangs their first regulation loss of the season to date. Although he may not show it every night on the score board, Skinner makes a difference every night out on the ice; and though he may not possess the all-world talent of his younger brother, he truly is an invaluable member of this Laurier team.
(Ben Skinner played 15 games for the Kitchener Rangers along with his brother in 2008-2009, but spent most of his junior career with either the Ajax Attack of Tier II Junior ‘A’ hockey. Veteran centre (#15) Colin Williams has been a crucial part of the team as well, and the former Aurora Junior ‘A’ man has 12 points on the year to date. Massive rookie (#71) Kain Allicock played on a line with NHL prospects John McFarland and Eric O’Dell for the Sudbury Wolves last year, and has loads of talent and potential as a power forward if he can mature mentally; and garner some discipline. Walk-on (#10) Matthew Reid has proven invaluable, playing a regular shift with Jean-Michel Rizk in the role of puck retrieval, and pure hard-worker.)