Laker coach high on defensive duo

October 7, 2015

A pair of homegrown defencemen from the Sault Ste. Marie area are part of the present and the future for the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Sophomore Aidan Wright and freshman Owen Headrick are two of nine defenceman who are featured on the 29-man roster of the Lakers, who are in the second phase of a major program rebuild under second-year head coach Damon Whitten.

Guesting on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show that airs on Tuesdays from 5-6 p.m. on ESPN 1400 Radio, Whitten spoke highly of both Wright and Headrick.

Wright, a 1993 birth-year defenceman who was born in Wawa, Ont. and moved to Sault Ste. Marie as a youngster, was a late, walk-on recruit of Whitten and the Lakers just prior to the start of the 2014-2015 season.

Wright — who played at the major midget level in the Soo before leaving home to further develop in the junior ranks in both the Ontario Jr. Hockey League and British Columbia Hockey League — not only earned a regular spot with the Lakers as a freshman in 2014-2015 but played in all 38 of their games, scoring a goal and adding four assists from his blueline post.

“What a find he was for us,” Whitten said of the 5-foot-10, 190 pound Wright. “We basically brought him in to give us depth on the blueline and he wound up playing on our top defensive unit.”

Whitten said Wright’s strengths include his smarts and skills “and keeping the game simple while being effective and making few mistakes.”

“What we also like about Aidan is how dependable he is and how hard he works. We never have to worry about Aidan. He shows up to practice and for games and gives 100 per cent effort and attention.

“He’s the epitome of a student-athlete,” said Whitten, in added praise of Wright. “Anything that you ask him to do, you only have to ask him once and he is willing to do it.”

As for the 6-foot, 190-pound Headrick, he is poised for regular lineup duty with the Lakers this 2015-2016 season despite being the youngest player on the team with a 1997 birth date.

“For such a young player, he’s making a good adjustment to the faster pace,” Whitten said of Headrick, who is four years younger than Wright.

Whitten said the Lakers do not want to rush a young player such as Headrick and while they have a plan in place to bring him along slowly, they view him as a regular on the power play.

“Owen has a pretty dynamic skill set in terms of his power-play ability and the way he handles the puck,” said Whitten. “He may not be quite ready to take a regular shift but we want him in the lineup on a regular basis.”

Whitten spoke of how he watched Headrick in summer competition with pro hockey players.

“If I didn’t know who he was out there I would have thought that he was one of the pros,” Whitten gushed. “He fit right in with the pros to the extent that he looked like one of them.”

A relaxed, poised, smooth skater who hails from Garden River First Nation just outside Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Headrick has made the jump to the Division 1 level after two standout seasons with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

Headrick finished the 2014-2015 season with a flourish for the NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada champion Thunderbirds.

After having shoulder surgery last fall, Headrick returned to the Thunderbirds late in the season and had a spectacular playoff with 12 goals, 8 assists, 20 points in 14 games from his blueline spot. For his efforts, he was named NOJHL most valuable player for the playoffs.

All together, over two years, regular season and playoffs included, Headrick played in 98 games for the Thunderbirds and scored 26 goals, 51 assists, 77 points.

As for the Lakers, they will head out on the road to Portland, Maine this weekend for games with the University of North Dakota and Michigan State University as part of the Ice Breaker Tournament.

Then, on October 16-17, the Lakers will play a home-and-home series with the Northern Michigan University Wildcats as part of Great Lakes State Weekend.

The Lakers feature six seniors on their 29-man roster along with five juniors, eight sophomores and an incoming class of 10 freshmen.

The Lakers finished tied for eighth place in the 10-team WCHA in 2014-2015 with a conference record of 7-20-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Among the returning players for the Lakers this 2015-2016 season are three seniors who were among their top goal scorers in 2014-2015 — Bryce Schmitt, Eric Drapluk and Austin McKay.

And a key returnee is sophomore goalie Gordon Defiel, who played in 36 of the Lakers 38 games as a freshman in 2014-2015 and had very respectable numbers that included a .915 save percentage and 3.08 goals against average to go with a record of 8-26-2. Defiel also led the nation in 2014-2015 with 1,148 saves.

Like the aforementioned Wright, Defiel was also a little-known, late-summer recruit of Whitten and the Lakers last year — and both gave the LSSU hockey program a big-time boost.

PHOTO: Aidan Wright enters his sophomore season as a top defenceman for the Lake Superior State University Lakers.

What you think about “Laker coach high on defensive duo”

  1. Young Mr. Headrik looked very solid and composed in the Blue-White Game! He is going to be a really good Laker! Great addition to the Program!

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