Aidan has the Wright approach

October 21, 2015

They have posted their first victory of the season as they prep for two more games this week.

Under second-year head coach Damon Whitten and with a young, 30-player roster that includes 11 freshmen and eight sophomores, the Lake Superior State University Lakers continue to be a Western Collegiate Hockey Association program in progress as they head out on the road to Michigan State University for a pair of games with the Spartans this Thursday and Friday.

The Lakers are off to a 1-3 start to this 2015-2016 campaign, having lost 5-2 to the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and 4-1 to Michigan State at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Portland, Maine two weeks ago before splitting a home-and-home series with the arch-rival Northern Michigan University Wildcats last weekend, losing 6-3 before winning 4-0.

To be sure, LSSU sophomore defenceman Aidan Wright said he feels the 2015-2016 edition of the Lakers is “way ahead” of where the program was a year ago.

“It’s like night and day,” said Wright, while guesting on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show which airs on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on ESPN 1400 Radio.

“I think with the returning players and a strong freshman class, we are in a much-better position now than we were a year ago,” said the affable Wright, a hard-nosed defender who has earned extensive words of praise from Coach Whitten for his attitude, commitment, work ethic and dependability.

A 5-foot-10, 190-pound, 1993 birth-year skater who was born in Wawa, Ont. and moved to Sault Ste. Marie as a youngster, Wright 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.

He has played in all four of the Lakers games thus far this season, including the 4-0 win over Northern Michigan — which was the night after he suffered a scary fall when he was hit from behind by a Wildcats player and crashed into the boards head first and had to leave the ice on a stretcher.

“It looked worse than it was,” Wright said of the mishap. “I could have skated off the ice but (medical personnel) didn’t want to take any chances.”

When he is not on the ice with the Lakers, Wright is busy in the classroom as a Fire Sciences major. And Whitten, his coach, can’t say enough about Wright as a student-athlete at LSSU.

Whitten said Wright’s on-ice 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 a seasoned sophomore and one of the leaders of the Laker blueline brigade, Wright was asked about freshman defenceman Owen Headrick, who also hails from the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. area — in nearby Garden River First Nation.

“Owen is going to have a great career as a Laker,” Wright said in praise of Headrick. “He has a lot of poise for such a young player and his skill level is really evident. I am looking forward to playing a lot of hockey with Owen as our program moves forward.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound Headrick has seen regular lineup duty through all four games thus far this 2015-2016 season despite being the youngest player on the Lakers 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.

“Owen has a pretty dynamic skill set in terms of his power-play ability and the way he handles the puck,” added Whitten. “We want him in the lineup on a regular basis.”

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.

PHOTO: Laker defenceman Aidan Wright (22) takes out a Michigan State player in a game from earlier this 2015-2016 season. (Photo by Michael McSweeney.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *