Westwood’s Arnason tops H.S. coaches poll ‘There’s no quit in him,’ says Warriors bench boss

Tristen Arnason is 5-9, 160 pounds but his talent is anything but lightweight.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/03/2022 (332 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tristen Arnason is 5-9, 160 pounds but his talent is anything but lightweight.

The 16-year-old centre has been a workhorse for the Westwood Warriors in 2021-22, celebrating a return to the ice after a pandemic-truncated season with a flair that has earned him the top spot in the inaugural Free Press coaches poll honouring the province’s top players in varsity boys high school hockey.

Arnason’s presence has been been a godsend for head coach Steve Christie, whose No. 2-ranked Warriors have managed with only nine forwards and five defenceman this season, and that’s on a good day.

“He has the ability to log a lot of ice time and with a smaller roster, we’ve had a lot of (absences due to) injuries or illnesses and COVID,” said Christie as his team prepared for Friday’s opening games at the AAAA Provincials at the Selkirk Recreation Complex. “Just when you think he has nothing left in the tank he’ll blow by guy with the highlight reel play. And you’re like, ‘Where does that come from?’ ”

Westwood forward Tristen Arnason earned the top spot in the inaugural Free Press coaches poll honouring the province’s top players in varsity boys high school hockey. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

Arnason, a Grade 11 student, was a surprise addition to the Westwood roster one week into training camp. He had already earned a spot with the Winnipeg U18 AAA Wild before deciding he preferred to play at the high school level.

He joined another Wild player, defenceman Jarrett Ross (No. 8 in the top 10), making the move to the Warriors.

“It’s not what I expected,” said Arnason. “When I first got to high school hockey I thought it would almost be easier, I guess, but it’s more a different style of play. AAA is more fast paced, I’d say, and you’ve got to look to move the puck and spread out more where high school hockey has a lot of hard workers.

“Kids who weren’t quite AAA superstars but a lot of them were more AA superstars and AAA grinders. It’s a lot more of a grind league, more hard-working and physical. So you have to adjust to that.”

Arnason flashed his offensive skills during the regular season, finishing fourth in league scoring with 37 points, including 14 goals, in 24 games. He’s added 11 points in eight post-season games.

“There’s no quit in him,” said Christie. “He battles on every little thing for probably one of the smallest guys in the entire league, he somehow wins most of those tough battles despite that size.

Tristen Arnason (right) battles Jarrett Ross (left) at a Westwood hockey practice. The team is ranked No. 2 in the city. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

“He always has the puck and he’s so elusive that he draws so many people to him and he creates chances and space for other people as well.”

Arnason’s decision to join his friends in the high school ranks has proven to be personal and competitive success. The Warriors advanced to the city final before losing in the third and deciding game to the St. Paul’s Crusaders.

“Most people I talked to didn’t think we’d be that good but me and my friends kinda knew we’d be good because we’ve known each other our whole lives,” said Arnason.

“I’m used to not being the biggest and it’s not really a part of my game. I don’t hit a lot. I’m more of a fast skater. I hang onto the puck a lot and I’m good at escaping hits. When I got to high school, I didn’t find it much different than AAA.”

THE FREE PRESS’S TOP 10

A list compiled with voting from a panel of 10 high school coaches.

1. TRISTEN ARNASON, centre
Westwood Warriors; Grade 11

By the numbers
14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 24 games

Profile
Small, speedy forward who drives the play every shift. Very difficult to contain and seems to have the puck every time he is on the ice. Finished fourth in Winnipeg High School Hockey League scoring. Plays in all situations and is considered a leader on and off the ice.

2. RILEY DUDYCH, forward
Oak Park Raiders; Grade 12

By the numbers
16 goals, 24 assists, 40 points, 24 games

Profile
Incredible speed and ability to score off the rush makes him very difficult to stop. Has a quick release that terrorizes opposition goaltenders and he’s not afraid to get into the tough areas of the ice.

3. NATHAN BURZYNSKI, forward
Lord Selkirk Royals; Grade 12

By the numbers
20 goals, 21 assists, 41 points, 24 games

Profile
Co-points leader in WHSHL Platinum Promotions Division regular season. A big skilled forward who can skate well. Terrific shot.

A list compiled with voting from a panel of 10 high school coaches.

1. TRISTEN ARNASON, centre
Westwood Warriors; Grade 11

By the numbers 
14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 24 games

Profile
Small, speedy forward who drives the play every shift. Very difficult to contain and seems to have the puck every time he is on the ice. Finished fourth in Winnipeg High School Hockey League scoring. Plays in all situations and is considered a leader on and off the ice.

2. RILEY DUDYCH, forward
Oak Park Raiders; Grade 12

By the numbers
16 goals, 24 assists, 40 points, 24 games

Profile
Incredible speed and ability to score off the rush makes him very difficult to stop. Has a quick release that terrorizes opposition goaltenders and he’s not afraid to get into the tough areas of the ice.

3. NATHAN BURZYNSKI, forward
Lord Selkirk Royals; Grade 12

By the numbers
20 goals, 21 assists, 41 points, 24 games

Profile
Co-points leader in WHSHL Platinum Promotions Division regular season. A big skilled forward who can skate well. Terrific shot.

4. MATTHEW LIZOTTE, forward
Vincent Massey (Winnipeg) Trojans; Grade 12

By the numbers
13 goals, 24 assists, 27 points, 24 games

Profile: A speedy winger who plays a very skilled game. Good in both ends of the ice and very dangerous off the rush. He sees the ice well and is very difficult to defend on the power play. Drives his line and makes for a difficult matchup for opponents.

5. JONAH NORMAN, forward
St. Paul’s Crusaders; Grade 12

By the numbers
18 goals, 23 assists, 41 points, 23 games

Profile
Co-points leader during WHSHL Platinum Promotions Division regular season. Very shifty and maneuvers and handles the puck very well. Sees the ice and has great anticipation for where players are going to be. Good speed and footwork which helps him get into spaces and make plays.

6. DYLAN MOON, forward
St. Paul’s Crusaders; Grade 12

By the numbers
18 goals, 15 assists, 33 points, 23 games

Profile
Second in St. Paul’s team scoring. Fast skater and adept puck-handler with an excellent, accurate shot. Big bodied player who’s an excellent all-around talent.

7. AUSTIN MANAIGRE, defenceman
St. Paul’s Crusaders; Grade 12

By the numbers
three goals, 14 assists, 17 points, 23 games

Profile
Very offensive-minded player with excellent quickness. Heavy shot from the point and can one-time with great accuracy. His D-zone exits are clean and quick and has good vision to complete stretch passes.

8. JARRETT ROSS, defenceman
Westwood Warriors; Grade 11

By the numbers
six goals, 14 assists, 20 points, 23 games

Profile
Big, mobile defenceman who makes life miserable for opponents with his physical play and tight checking. He led all WHSHL defencemen in scoring and logs a ton of minutes for a young Warriors squad.

9. LAYNE RICHARDSON, forward
Sturgeon Heights Huskies; Grade 12

By the numbers
23 goals, 11 assists, 34 points, 24 games

Profile
Top scorer in WHSHL Platinum Promotions Division regular season. A big forward who skates well and can dominate a game when he’s at his best. His best asset is his shot, which is capable of overpowering goalies. Plays in all situations including defence on the power play

10. LuLUKE DECORBY, forward
Major Pratt (Russell) Trojans; Grade 12

By the numbers
53 goals, 56 assists, 109 points, 35 games

Profile
Top scorer during Westman High School Hockey League regular season. Powerful forward who can skate and score. Has very good vision on the ice.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Caden Ostermann, forward Sturgeon Heights, Grade 12; Ryan Orchard, forward, Carman Cougars, Grade 11

Arnason’s arrival forced Christie to raise his expectations for the season.

“Adding a piece like that with the core that we had kind of really put it in perspective that hey, we got a pretty good championship shot here,” said Christie. “It definitely really changed the dynamics of our team.”

Arnason is hoping the Warriors can rebound from a disappointing loss in the city final with a provincial title. To do that, it’s quite likely they will have to beat the Crusaders in Monday’s final.

“Losing citys made us want to win provincials even more,” said Arnason. “We’ve gotta go out there and try to win it.”

He said the Warriors and Crusaders have a healthy rivalry.

“I’ve played with a lot of St. Paul’s guys in AA and AAA before,” said Arnason. “Our teams respect each other, we don’t have any beef or conflict with them, but on the ice it’s pretty intense against them because we’re two pretty competitive teams. We both want to win.”

Next season, Arnason may pursue playing options in Junior A although he is leaning toward returning to the Warriors for Grade 12. The Swan Valley Stampeders own his MJHL rights.

“I’ve put some thought into playing there but I haven’t quite decided yet,” he said. “I’d be open to any kind of Junior A after high school.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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