Meteors drop Blackhawks
No one was more pumped than Owen Caldwell when the Thorold Blackhawks announced they would be playing the 2022/23 Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season in Port Colborne.
“I was super excited,” the Port Colborne native said. “I don’t have to drive as far and I’ve got lots of friends and family in Port so they can come out and support us.”
Caldwell grew up playing at the old West Side Arena, but loves calling the Vale Health and Wellness Centre home.
“It’s been great,” he said. “There’s been lots of support from the community and we’re going to try and help out in the community this year. We’re going to try and stay out after practice and help out (with minor teams).”
Caldwell, a 5-foot-11,160-pound defenceman, had a solid rookie campaign with the Blackhawks after being overlooked in the Ontario Hockey League draft.
“We just want him to keep growing and getting better at this level,” Blackhawks coach Scott Barnes said. “I think last year was good getting his feet wet in junior and he played a lot for us.”
Barnes expects Caldwell to take his game to another level this season.
“This year it’s about taking that next step and the second year in the league I think you find more confidence. Try and play his game a little more. He’s an offensive guy and we’re trying to with him on both ends of the ice.”
Caldwell said there is a world of difference between being a rookie and a sophomore.
“It feels easier, you’re a lot more calm with the puck and not as scared as you were,” he said. “I think it’s just playing with more confidence in the second year and being an older guy and having some say on the ice and in the room. You feel more comfortable with the guys and you have some chemistry with the guys from last year. It helps a lot.”
Caldwell worked out diligently on and off the ice this summer.
“I think it will translate well. It’s just a little sample so far but I think it will pay off,” he said.
Caldwell collected two goals and 15 points in 44 games last season and Barnes feels he can improve on those totals this year.
“He’s got a shot, he likes to create offence but we need him to do that and need him to be solid in his own end too,” Barnes said. “We have a bunch of guys who I think have that in them. We don’t necessarily say you have to be the quarterback or on the power play. We like our D to jump up. We’re the kind of team we’re going to need offence from everyone so with him it’s just working on his overall game.”
Barnes also expects Caldwell to take on more of a leadership role.
“He’s well liked in the room and this year it’s taking that next step as a leader. It’s nice to have a hometown guy — we have a couple of them — help guys around town and show them places to be,” he said.
If Caldwell continues to improve, Barnes sees no season why he can’t play at the next level.
“He’s got a lot of the tools. He can skate and he’s not the biggest guy but he likes to throw big hits. If he works on his D zone and gets a little bit stronger, he’s already got some of the skills that don’t come easily for a lot of people.”
The Blackhawks dropped a 5-1 decision Friday in Port Colborne to the Fort Erie Meteors.
Marcus Regina had two goals for the winners while Caleb Bigood, Brad Ditillio and Henry Vest added singles.
Josh Smith made 31 saves for the win.
Dylan Coers replied for the Blackhawks.
Christian Lynch kicked out 36 shots for Thorold.
The teams play again Saturday at the Leisureplex.
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