But that didn’t stop either player from giving it their all throughout training camp and in the intrasquad game proper – and now that the ‘making the team’ thing is officially out of the way, it’s time to really get down to business.
Popple scored once and was a threat on offence every shift as his Team Black took a 7-4 victory over Hunt and Team White to close out training camp Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Place.
“It never gets old, it’s always tough and competitive and even when you’re on the team you’re still fighting for a spot,” said Popple, one of the team’s few 19-year-old forwards. “We had that chat the other day, nobody is in the clear, everyone is fighting for ice time and just to get on the team, I might be a veteran but I still had to play hard. It’s good, it’s fun and it was a good weekend.”
Popple battled injuries much of last season and finished with 11 goals and 19 points in 42 games. Now with a healthy summer behind him and a season loaded with potential in front, the third-year Tribe veteran is looking forward to the new campaign.
“With the guys who have left, someone else has to step up, and I want to be one of the guys who puts points on the board,” he said. “But if you let that get into your head it’s bad for everybody, it’s a team game and I’m just a part of it… It’s going to be fun to see how things go and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The stakes are especially high for Hunt – the 17-year-old rearguard is coming off an appearance earlier this month with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament and is currently ranked in the top-60 prospects for the 2020 National Hockey League draft.
He’s apparently taken that all to heart. Not only has Hunt come into camp bigger and stronger, his test results have pegged him among the fittest and fastest players on the team. Now it’s time to put all that work to good use.
“It’s been great, it’s always great to be out there with all the young prospects competing for a spot on the team and I’m really happy with everything,” said Hunt, who scored seven goals and 20 points while going plus-21 as a 16-year-old rookie defenceman. “My game specifically has been really good, it’s been a busy summer, but I think I’ve grown a lot as a player as well so I’m looking forward to it.”
While he was held off the scoresheet on Sunday, having the chance to hit the ice in a fully competitive game was most certainly a positive.
“It was awesome,” he said. “There was a really good compete level, all the guys are going all out to make the roster spots and I love seeing that. I remember being in their shoes and being pretty nervous and just trying to compete against everyone, so this year I wanted to come in and show that I’ve come in stronger and can compete even harder.”
Kaedan Taphorn led the Team Black offence with a goal and two assists, while Cameron Sterling, Braden Miller, Luke Ormsby, Ryan Hofer and Alek Sukunda all had single markers. Matthew Sanders picked up a pair of assists for Black, who led 2-1 after the first and 5-2 through two.
Moose Jaw minor hockey product and Prairie Hockey Academy standout Kirk Mullen continued his impressive training camp with a goal and an assist for Team White. Daniil Stepanov, Kade Runke and Dakota MacIntosh all had single markers.
Kyle Kelsey got the start in goal for Team Black and stopped seven shots in his period and half of work before giving way to Brett Mirwald, who made 10 stops the rest of the way.
Hunter Lolacher made 10 stops in 31 minutes for Team White; Jackson Berry stopped 16.
The Warriors will have a practice day Monday before taking the ice in an all-rookie game with the Regina Pats on Tuesday night. Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosaic Place.
Overtime… former Notre Dame Hounds and Clarkson University standout Olivia Howe served as a guest coach for Team White, with Moose Jaw AAA Warriors head coach Trevor Weisgerber lending a hand on the Team Black bench… admission to the Intrasquad Game was by donation, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association in memory of Ethan Williams. The game against Regina will have the same admission in place.