Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If there's a will there's a Wayway

U.S. goalie hopes to be spotted in MJHL

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Goaltender Cory Simons has chased his hockey dream from the Windy City to Waywayseecappo.

The Chicago native has been turning heads as fast as he's turned aside pucks since joining the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this season.

Simons, tied for the league lead with two shutouts in seven games, leads the MJHL in goals against average at 2.62 and in save percentage at .904.

"We needed a goaltender and he had quite a few accolades at the high school level last year, so we thought it was worth bringing him in here. He's done very well for us," said Barry Butler, the Wolverines' coach and general manager, who recruited Simons last summer after finding out through U.S. contacts that he was looking for a place to play.

"It doesn't really matter to us where you're from, what we want to do is improve our hockey club," Butler said. "It just looked like the right fit to improve our hockey club. When you can find him as a free agent, that makes it even better."

Simons, 19, played last season for the Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League but wanted to play in a higher-profile market.

"The Manitoba league sounded like a great place to play and I talked to their former goalie, Ryan Benitez -- he's playing at Princeton University right now -- and I was pretty much sold after he told me about the organization," Simons said.

With Benitez, who came from Denver, the Wolverines last year earned the MJHL's crossover playoff spot in the Addison Division.

"I'm pretty fortunate that Barry and the club gave me a chance and I'm just trying to make the most of it right now," said Simons. "We're off to a really good start (14-14-3), we're right along with the top teams and there's no reason why we can't win the championship this year."

Simons said he had a great season in Rochester, where he was on a team that won 34 of its 45 games and finished second overall. He said his goal is to earn a scholarship, noting that Benitez is proof that it can happen in Wayway.

"I'd like to follow in Benny's (Benitez) footsteps, he told me how coach Butler can help you get to the next level," he said. "It's a small, Northern town in Canada and the team is like a family, which is what I was looking for. I feel like the scouting is better up in Canada, it's more well-known for hockey, and it's a lot of fun up here."

The play of Simons, who has a 5-7 record, has helped boost the Wolverines into a battle for second place in the Sher-Wood division with the OCN Blizzard.

The Wolverines were four points behind OCN entering Friday's play.

"He brings a lot of confidence. He's a calm goaltender who prepares himself very well," Butler said. "He competes very hard and has been very good for us. We're not sure we know how good he is just yet because we haven't seen him that much, but he has the capabilities of being the number one in our junior A league, that's for sure."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2011 C4

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