Local hockey player aiming for WHL playoffs
It’s playoffs or bust for Sam Mckechnie.
The 18-year-old Airdrie Xtreme alumni is back for his second season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“So far, so good,” Mckechnie said of his sophomore season with the team. “It’s nice having the one year under your belt. You know the rinks and how hard the travel is. We’re doing better than last year as a team.”
His first season opened Mckechnie’s eyes to the rigours of major junior hockey on and off the ice and also what he would need to establish a spot as one of the team’s most reliable players.
It was a reminder that he couldn’t be complacent and rest on what he’d accomplished last season.
Mckechnie played a full 72-game slate last season and recorded 30 points, a total he’s already matched at the halfway mark of the current season.
The team was in Calgary Dec. 28 for its fourth of six meetings with the Hitmen; a 2-1 victory for the ‘Canes. Mckechnie scored his 17th goal of the season, beating Hitmen netminder Chris Driedger on a breakaway.
He added another assist in a rematch with Calgary Dec. 29, which the Hitmen won 4-1, bringing his point total to 29.
Familiarity with the team and his linemates have been one of the keys behind Mckechnie’s successful second season.
He’s been paired up with Graham Hood and Brady Ramsey for the first four months of the year and for Mckechnie and Hood, the chemistry they began developing last year is still intact.
A jump in his point production has also translated into a jump in Mckechnie’s special teams ice time.
As a rookie, the forward was a fixture on the team’s penalty kill and that experience has pushed him onto the powerplay, a role he’s taken to naturally.
“It helps a lot (playing with Hood),” Mckechnie said.
“You know where he’s going to go on the ice and you build chemistry after a year of playing together.
“You want to be relied on more. The coaches expect more from you scoring wise, that comes with the more production you put up and the longer you’ve been on the team.”
While he’s been finding the back of the net more frequently this season and it has been a welcome addition to his game, Mckechnie said his primary goal for the season is team-wide consensus. After three straight years of the making the playoffs, the Hurricanes are making a push for the post season.
The puck recently dropped on the second half of the season and as of press time, Lethbridge was sitting in fifth place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and above .500 with a 18-17-1-4 record.
After last season, sitting in a playoff spot is a hopeful change for the team.
A 13-game losing streak in October 2011 dashed the Hurricanes’ chance of making the playoffs, but Mckechnie said this year the attitude in the locker room and on the bench is different.
“We have a couple more second-year guys,” he said.
“There’s a better mindset. We come in believing we can win every day.”
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