Thursday, April 26, 2012

Catching Up With Connolly.

(Photo By: Ralph Posteraro)

Fresh off his first season in the National Hockey League, Prince George Cougars alumni forward Brett Connolly has a lot to feel good about. The soon-to-be 20-year-old from Prince George, B.C. played in 68 games and scored four goals and 15 points with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Connolly also represented Canada for a second time at the World Junior Hockey Championships, and scored five goals in six games, helping Canada to a bronze medal.

Brett Connolly recorded 152 career points in 144 games as a Prince George Cougar. He ranks fifth all-time in goals with 86, and sits 15th on the all-time franchise scoring leaders list. Heading into the 2011-2012 season, Connolly still had two more years of junior eligibility, but a strong summer in the gym and an even better training camp helped him stay in Tampa Bay permanently.

“My goal going into this season was to make the team out of training camp, and it was nice to play a full year,” said Brett Connolly who is back in Prince George for a few days visiting his family and friends. “I learned a lot. There were a lot of things that I took from a lot of different people. It was a very exciting season for me.”

As Connolly reflects on his first professional season, he acknowledges that it was a season full of learning both on and off the ice. “I was fortunate to have a very good group of leaders around. They made it a lot easier for me,” said Connolly. “It’s nice being around guys who have won Stanley Cups before. They taught me how to be professional, and I want to take that into next year for sure.”

Connolly has always prided himself on being an offensive player, and he doesn’t have to look far inside his own locker room to find offensive motivation. He had the luxury of watching and learning from the NHL’s top goal scorer Steven Stamkos. “You see a guy like Stamkos, who scored 60 goals, and is in the gym every day,” said Connolly. “It rubs off on you and it’s nice to be around that type of attitude.”

Connolly’s stay in Prince George won’t last long. He’ll be heading home to Toronto shortly, and will begin training for his sophomore season in the NHL.

Though he now lives in Toronto, Brett Connolly will forever hold the city of Prince George, and the Prince George Cougars organization in the highest regard. “The Prince George Cougars believed in me from at a very young age,” recalls Connolly. “I always enjoyed the management,  all of the teammates I’ve had over the years, and the city of Prince George as a whole. I owe a lot to the organization.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Troy Bourke Reflects on U-18's.

(Photo By: Ralph Posteraro)

Prince George Cougars forward Troy Bourke returned to Canada on Monday night after helping Canada secure a bronze medal at the World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic. The draft-eligible forward from Onoway, Alberta reflected on his experiences with the voice of the Cougars, Dan O’Connor.

 DO: Talk first about the overall experience of the Under-18’s and what the experience meant to you?

 Troy Bourke: It was amazing. Obviously we would have liked to have come back with a gold medal. But the teams there were all very good, and to bring a bronze medal home was a big accomplishment for me and the boys. It was awesome. Europe is a whole different experience, and a whole different lifestyle and I just tried to take everything in, live day-by-day. It was pretty cool.

 DO: Not a bad tournament for you by any means. You play seven games, and end the tournament with seven points (all assists). Happy with the role you had with the team and your offensive output?

 Troy Bourke: Yeah for sure. Obviously it would have been nice to get a few goals in there, but I think my role was mainly a setup man. I think I did a pretty good job playing with guys like Kerby Rychel (Windsor, OHL) and Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat, WHL), they can put the puck in the net. They were both 40 goal scorers in their own leagues, and my role in this tournament was to set those guys up for big goals, and I think I did a pretty good job.

 DO: What were some of the specific things that allowed you three to find the chemistry that you did?  

Troy Bourke: I think it was mainly our speed and our quickness in the corners. Those guys both scored over 40 goals, they know how to put the puck in the net, they know where to go on the ice to get the puck. My role was to try and be an offensive guy, and with those kinds of players it’s easy to find them on the ice and for them to score.

 DO: Tell me about the leadership of (captain) Matt Dumba (Red Deer, WHL), and what the presence of a guy like that had in that locker room with that club?  

Troy Bourke: He’s pretty remarkable. He’s one of my good friends off the ice and obviously on the ice he leads by example, and he leads vocally. He led the tournament in points (12), which is remarkable for a defenceman to bring that offensive spark. He brings all of the elements to a good d-man’s game, and as far as leadership goes, he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever played with.

DO: What does this tournament do for your confidence moving forward, knowing that the NHL draft is looming in June?  

Troy Bourke: It was huge for my confidence. I didn’t have the best year that I would have liked in Prince George offensively, but I finished the season strong. I think I brought that kind of offensive style into this tournament and it gave me a lot of confidence to play that style. I know that I can play with the best players in the world and it gives me a lot of confidence heading into the draft. I’m trying not to really worry about that because I know that anything’s possible. I might go, I might not go. But I’m not too worried about it. I just want to have fun with the experience and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

DO: Knowing that you’ve just had the chance to represent your country internationally as an 18-year-old. What does that mean to you at this stage of your life?

 Troy Bourke: It was one of the most special things that I’ve ever experienced in my life. It gives me tingles to think about representing our country, and doing well bring home a bronze. Putting on the Maple Leaf is something that I’ll never forget no matter what level I get to, it’s something I will always look back on.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Troy Bourke Impressing at U-18's,

With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft looming in June, Prince George Cougars forward Troy Bourke (Onoway, AB) is making a strong case for himself at the 2012 World Under-18 Championships taking place in the Czech Republic. The Prince George Cougars leading scorer was one of the first confirmed names for Team Canada, and so far he has not disappointed. Through six games, Troy Bourke has recorded six assists and head coach Jesse Wallin has not been shy to use Bourke in all situations. Bourke has spent most of the tournament playing alongside two 2013 draft eligible players in Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat, WHL) and Kerby Rychel (Windsor, OHL). Currently, Troy Bourke is ranked 123rd in the Central Scouting Bureau’s Spring rankings for North American skaters, but his strong showing at the World Under-18 championship is bound to help his cause come draft day. Bourke and his teammates will square off with Finland on Sunday with the hopes of returning to Canada with a bronze medal. The game will shown live on TSN at 3:00 AM local time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Troy Bourke to Represent Canada at U-18 World Championship.

The Prince George Cougars are pleased to announce that 94-born forward Troy Bourke (Onoway, AB) will represent Canada at the upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey U-18 World Championship which takes place April 12 – 22nd in the Czech Republic.

“I give the Prince George Cougars a lot of credit for where I am now. They are a big part of getting me to the U-18’s,” said Troy Bourke. “It’s an exciting time for me. I’m just going to embrace it and have fun.”

Bourke set a new career high for points during the 2011-2012 season. He scored 18 goals, and finished with a team high in points with 56. Bourke also led the team in power play points (21) and multi-point games (14). Bourke has 101 points in 144 career games with the Prince George Cougars.

“We are very happy that Troy gets to represent Canada and the Prince George Cougars at the U-18 World Championship,” said Prince George Cougars General Manager Dallas Thompson. “He deserves this opportunity and we know he’ll be a huge asset to Team Canada.”

“Troy Bourke had an outstanding season for us, leading our team offensively,” said Prince George Cougars Head Coach Dean Clark. “We wish him all of the best, and we hope that he comes back to Canada with a gold medal.”

This marks the second time that Bourke will dawn the maple leaf. Bourke played for Team Pacific at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge that took place in Winnipeg and Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Bourke had eight points in six games during that tournament and helped lead Team Pacific to a bronze medal.

Bourke will be eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and was ranked as the 107th North American skater during the Central Scouting Bureau’s mid-term (winter) rankings.