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Home opener a night to remember for Canmore Eagles’ local rookies

“I was really nervous when I came out – I had nerves and butterflies and I was shaking – but all the nerves are out now and it’s awesome that my hometown can watch me."

CANMORE – With a season opening win on the line, the Canmore Eagles’ all-star goalie Andreai Proctor-Ramirez denied Drumheller Dragons Ty Whitford to end the shootout, concluding a memorable night of first goals, name-chanting, and proud parents.

Hopping over the boards and rushing onto the ice to celebrate in the chaos and yelling were a couple home-grown rookies – Owen Jones and Finn McLaughlin – who each had their own special moment in front of a cheering hometown crowd at the Alex Kaleta Arena.

Getting the season started in style, McLaughlin’s first AJHL career goal was also Canmore’s first of 2022-23.

The moment was electric for the 16-year-old defenceman; and the puck that smacked the back of the net is now displayed on his home dresser.

“It’s definitely going to stay there for a while,” McLaughlin said, smiling ear-to-ear.

Watching from the bleachers, Carrie McLaughlin described the surprise, then excitement that her son scored first for Canmore.

“His face was almost in shock, like he had a big smile, he was cheering, but also a bit of disbelief, like, he did it, he actually did it,” she said.

Carrie remembers first bringing Finn to Eagles games when he was four years old. His goal was to be out on the ice wearing Canmore’s colours, and things have come full circle.

“For me as a mom, seeing him kind of have his dream come true playing for his home team, it was a really special night,” she said.

The goal was the start of a two-point night for McLaughlin, later assisting newly anointed captain Vincent Scott on the power play. With a flair for scoring on the blue line, the young defenceman will be looked upon to quarterback and create offence.

It’s a role and style of play that suits the 2022 U17 Five Nations silver medallist.

“It’s kind of how I play,” McLaughlin said. “I love working the top of the power play and being one of the guys they look to when they need a goal.”

His type of play caught the attention of Denver University, where he committed to university, his WHL draft team the Saskatoon Blades, and his new coach Andrew Milne.

“He’s a special player and Denver University feels that same way early in his career,” said Milne. “He’s going to grow quickly; there’s going to be a learning curve for him and I think accelerate at it.”

The season opener’s big climax was when the overtime horn blasted, marking a tie game, and a thrilling goalie versus skater shootout was seconds away.

Marked down to shoot third for Canmore was Jones, a local forward who was around the Eagles for much of his youth.

Although he played in last year’s playoffs for Canmore, the atmosphere last Friday was “pretty crazy” and “nerve-racking” for the 18-year-old.

“Everyone was screaming my name during the shootout, everyone was screaming ‘Owen, Owen, Owen’ because I know everyone in town,” said Jones.

Jones was unable to beat Dragons goalie William Dyke. However, the next Eagles shooter, Riley Dekowny, bagged the shootout’s only goal.

“I was really nervous when I came out – I had nerves and butterflies and I was shaking – but all the nerves are out now and it’s awesome that my hometown can watch me,” said Jones.

For the past two seasons, Jones was playing triple A in Airdrie and said junior A game is much faster. He’s taken a conservative approach in his game play early on – playing smart and not making mistakes.

Although, for his father and former Eagles assistant coach, Kurtis Jones, he said there’s a process his son and other young players will have to learn.

“He’ll get that teaching there, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Owen’s got a lot to learn and see how junior A hockey is. Going from 36 games to 62 games, it’s a big step for him in learning how to mentally and physically deal with all that, but he’ll get there.”

Eagles captain Vincent Scott, who had the C sewn on his sweater in the offseason, is thrilled to lead the club. When offering advice to the young bucks of the team, he said it’s about teaching them to play the right way.

“There’s a lot of guys on our team who were high scorers in midget and it’s a completely different game up here,” he said. “[I’m] really preaching to do things the right way, and, kind of taking it slow is such a big thing for young guys to understand.”

With tons of speed and heart, Scott tops Canmore's early point-getters with four.

The locker room has been full of energy about this Eagles group and the direction they are going in.

“I like our depth and I like our group,” said Milne. “I think we need a little more game time under out belt and those guys are really going to take off and I’m excited to see what they do.”

The Eagles have started the year 1-2-0; they hit the road for a five-game swing starting Friday (Sept. 23) against the Bandits.

The Eagles return to the nest Oct. 7 against Drumheller. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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