Blackhawks add defenceman
Brockville’s loss has been Thorold’s gain.
Jonathan Balah began the season with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canadian Hockey League, but was watching more than he was playing, dressing for only four games through the first few months of the season.
“Obviously, it was disappointing,” said Balah, a 17-year-old native of St. Catharines. “I wanted to go and make a difference there but they didn’t want to give me a chance.
“It was very frustrating. I wanted to play every day, but I just got so frustrated and fed up. They kept telling me these things to stick with it, but I’m 17 and I need to develop.”
Concerned his season was about to go down the drain, Balah contacted Thorold Blackhawks head coach Scott Barnes. Balah had skated the Blackhawks last season as an AP while playing midget in Barrie and was familiar with Barnes from summer hockey.
“We really wanted him this year,” Balah said. “Unfortunately, Brockville was all over him last February and pretty much offered him a spot for this year. You have to take it as a 17-year-old to get a Junior A chance.
“We knew about him and wanted him and he’s kind of taken the ball and run with it. He’s had a pretty good start with us.”
Balah joined the Blackhawks a couple of weeks ago and made an immediate impact with a goal and an assist in four games, three of which the Hawks won.
Balah is thrilled he made the decision to join the Blackhawks.
“It’s awesome. The guys in the room are fantastic and the coaches are great,” he said. “It feels really good and it shows on paper too.”
Balah, who moved to Barrie when he was four but still has family in St. Catharines, has given the Hawks some much needed depth on the blueline.
“He’s a solid, overall defender,” Barnes said. “He moves the puck hard and quick and he’s a good skater with a good shot. He’s hard to play against. He’s not a big, physical guy, but he’s on you.
“He’s already stuck up for some of his teammates and he’s already one of the guys. He fit right in. He’s playing on the power play and penalty kill. He’s jumped up the pecking order pretty quickly.”
Balah, who is living with his grandparents in St. Catharines, isn’t afraid to rush the puck.
“I like to be a two-way defenceman, hop into the offensive side when I can, but obviously you can’t be at one end of the ice and not the other.”
The Blackhawks are inching toward the .500 mark after a tough start which saw them win their first two games of the season, then drop six straight.
“Our younger guys are starting to figure out the league and we put some new systems in this year so everything is coming together,” Barnes said. “We lost six in a row and that coincided with losing a couple of key defenceman and we didn’t have the depth to overcome that. We knew at the time we were just going to have to live day by day. We knew it was going to be tough to get some wins in there.
“Six in a row set us back. I knew this was going to hurt us for the season but at the same time it gave some guys a chance to grow and to learn about the league and maybe get minutes they wouldn’t have gotten.”
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