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Leading scorer carries Canucks into playoffs

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Cam Fehr may have won the MMJHL scoring title this season, but his coach was impressed with more than just his 70 points.

The 19-year-old St. James Canucks forward led the junior league in scoring in his second year, finishing six points clear of Mike Lazo and Cam Hildebrand of the Raiders and Doug Lawrence of the Charleswood Hawks. But it was Fehr’s improvement as a 200-foot player that caught head coach Brian Smiley’s attention.

"He’s only 19, and he certainly has some big upside," Smiley said. "He realizes what it takes to be an all-around player, not only scoring but defensively responsible. He knows you have to play both ends of the ice."

Fehr, a Headingley resident, said his defensive game was a weakness in his rookie season and something he made a point of improving as a sophomore. That commitment to his own zone often led to offensive chances, he said.

While winning a scoring title wasn’t a priority for Fehr at the start of the season, it did start to creep into the back of his mind after a quick start.

"After 10 or 15 games I gave it some thought, but it wasn’t something to focus on," he said. "Towards the end of the season I definitely would take a look (at the league stats) day-to-day to see how everyone else was doing.

"It was a nice personal achievement, but I wanted to get wins. That was more important."

The Canucks doubled their win total from a year earlier, finishing in fifth place at 22-19-4. They trailed their first-round playoff series with the Pembina Valley Twisters 2-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 4.

"We’re a team that literally has to work hard from start to finish," said Smiley, who took over as coach this season. "We’re only losing one player this year, so we’re a young team that has a major upside. To realize it we have to continue working hard and stick to our game plan."

That game plan usually involves trying to keep scoring to a minimum. After Fehr and Jesse Antonyshen, who finished with 60 points, the Canucks didn’t have any other players in the top 40 in points.

Fehr said the team’s most valuable player was goaltender Erik Swar, who was second in the league in games played.

"The main reason we won games was our goaltender," Fehr said. "He kept us in there a lot of the time."

This year, the Canucks will be pleased if they can get out of the first round and try their luck in the semifinals against one of the league’s elite teams. In the future, their goal is to become one of those clubs.

"I think it’s got a lot to do with guys after their first year, whether they adapt to the league a little better," Fehr said. "We’ll have an older team next year that can compete for the one or two spot."

Smiley sees the success of a club like the Charleswood Hawks, with their perennial trips to the finals, and knows it won’t be easy to emulate.

"They have an absolute commitment to excellence," he said. "It starts at the boardroom and goes to the coach and carries on to the players. They have a culture of winning and expect to win like I’ve never seen before.

"All teams strive for that, but you can only achieve that when you win."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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