Alex Jepsen is becoming acclimatized to facing strong opponents.
The 17-year-old Transcona Collegiate Institute Titans centre is facing his opponents’ top lines each and every game, but it hasn’t slowed his scoring pace in the slightest.
After posting 45 points (24 goals and 21 assists) in 22 regular season games in 2012-13, Jepsen had notched 36 points (18 goals and 18 assists) in 18 games as of Feb. 4.
His strong play so far this year, instrumental in Transcona recovering from a 2-5 start to sit at 10-8 as of Feb. 4, helped him secure the Home Run Sports Urban High School Athlete of the Week Award on Feb. 4.
"Last year, I had more of a goal-scoring mentality," said Jepsen, who added he modelled his game after former Vancouver Canucks star Markus Naslund growing up. "This year, it seems more balanced, as you can see from the stats, I have as many assists as goals."
Jepsen noted his linemates complement him well, as he said they’re just as capable of making plays and scoring goals as he is.
As for the Titans as a whole, Jepsen pointed out the squad began to gain its footing after posting a 2-1 record at a tournament filled with stiff competition in Virden in November. Shortly afterward, Transcona reeled off a six-game win streak to vault itself back into the thick of competition in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League’s Winnipeg Free Press Division.
"We tried some new things out there because it was a tournament," he said. "They started clicking, and it was nice to have some team bonding — getting closer together, developing chemistry."
Jepsen hopes to move on to play Junior ‘A’ hockey after high school, as he’ll look to latch on with a Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) club for the 2014-15 season.
Head coach Steve Sinclair likened Jepsen to a former Titan who experienced success at a higher level. Myles Nykoluk played two MJHL seasons after graduating, scoring 52 points in 43 games for the Steinbach Pistons after a midseason trade from the Virden Oil Capitals in 2012-13. After years of being the league doormat, the Pistons rose up, shocking the MJHL by winning the title.
Sinclair said the 5-11 Jepsen, who serves as Transcona’s captain, is a versatile player, helping the team in a variety of situations.
"At this stage, I think Jep is as good, if not a little bit better, of a player than Nykoluk was at this point," Sinclair said. "The way Jeppy plays, it’s funny, he scores points, but he’s also one of our most aggressive players, too. He’s a physical player out there.
"This year, we use him on the power-play, penalty-kill, he definitely covers the defensive zone, he watches his players."
Sinclair said the Titans believe they can continue their ascent to a division title, but need each and every player to be at their best for it to happen.
"Realistically, there are six, seven teams that could win this," he said, noting the 17-1-0 Sanford Sabres are the team to beat right now. "If we play our game, we have a shot at the championship.
"If everybody plays to their potential, we have a shot. If a couple don’t, we don’t have a hope."