Despite his team’s disappointing ninth-place showing at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 in Port Hawkesbury and Sydney, N.S., Team West forward Keegan Kolesar looks back at the tournament fondly.
"You know, it was honestly the greatest hockey experience I’ve had up to this point. Just putting on that jersey and playing for the provinces and the country was unreal," said Kolesar, 16, who’s from the Riverbend area.
"It was tough getting up for that last game (a 4-3 win against Germany), knowing that we couldn’t win a medal, but I commend myself and my teammates for getting up and winning that game.
"I thought I had a good tournament. I was one of the leaders on my team (two goals, four point in five games), and just tried to play a hard, physical game out there, which transferred, but just couldn’t go far enough."
In the 2012-2013 season, Kolesar was called up from the Winnipeg Thrashers Midget AAA team, appearing in one regular season game and two playoff contests for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.
This season, Kolesar is a regular in the Thunderbirds’ lineup.
With one goal and five points through 36 games, Kolesar isn’t exactly tearing the WHL up, but said he’s adjusting to the pace of the league quite well, using his 6-1, 216-pound frame to his advantage.
"I try to model my game after a big power forward like Milan Lucic or Bobby Ryan," Kolesar said. "I’m not a flashy guy. I’m good defensively and I’m a power forward. I drive the puck wide and I crash and bang, and fight if I have to, anything that gets the team going. I like to get around the front of the net and cause some trouble."
To consistently cause trouble for the opposition, Kolesar said he needs to work on his transition game, increase his foot speed and win more battles in the corner.
Still, Kolesar feels he’s on the right track, thanking Winnipeg hockey coaches Bruno Zarrillo, Rob Reimer, Jim Berezowsky and Doug Sinclair for getting him properly prepared for the WHL. He’s also worked with an NHLer in the off-season.
"My cousin’s girlfriend’s brother is Ryan White of the Montreal Canadiens, and he’s gotten me out every year to do conditioning, skating and dry land training," Kolesar said.
Commitment to sport runs in the family. Kolesar’s father, Charles Peterson, is a former professional baseball player, including a stint with the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
"My dad, and my mom too, are always pushing me to be my best," Kolesar said. "They’ve really helped me out with ‘Every day, get into the gym, try to get better than you were yesterday.’"
"Every day before a game, they send me a text saying something like ‘Good luck! Go get them!’ That means a lot to me."