Xtreme rookie has breakout season on top line
A local hockey player had a modest goal heading into his first season with the Airdrie Xtreme bantam AAA team. He’s achieved that and then some.
Rookie Gary Haden has become one of the team’s top scorers.
“(The season’s) going really well,” Haden said. “Everything’s been amazing, from the home opener to playing on the top line.
He was aiming for 20 when he started the season, but Haden’s 29 points have him tied for second on the team with Andrew Fyten.
He played an offensive role in peewee, scoring 41 goals, and the scoring touch he showed right off the start of the season earned him a spot on the top with co-captain Jordan McConnell and Brett Trentham.
“Jordan’s a great player,” Haden said. “It’s the same with Brett. He likes to go to the dirty areas. He doesn’t get noticed for how many points he gets, but he does a lot of work to help us out.”
The Xtreme coaching staff knew Haden would be an offensive spark coming into training camp, but how he’s blossomed into one of their top players has been a pleasant surprise.
“He showed he had some touch around the net at training camp,” said Xtreme head coach Terry Keogh. “It took him the first month to adjust and get a better knack for the game. He’s doing a good job on the penalty kill and he’s proved to us he can play different roles.”
The scoring has come naturally him, but Haden came into the season expecting to be a key player on the team and with a mindset of improving his defensive game.
“I knew they couldn’t put me out there just to score goals,” he said.
“I had to show them I could be responsible defensively and shut the other lines down.”
Keogh praised Haden for the mature hockey sense and knowledge that the rookie has brought to the team and said that he is always willing to learn and improve.
“He anticipates the play really well,” he said. “He’s one that you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to. First years can be rather shy with asking questions, but anything he doesn’t understand he asks about and that’s a sign of good maturity.”
With the season winding down and the playoffs on the horizon, Haden’s focus has turned to rest solely on the team and its quest for a league championship. It’s theirs if they work for it, Haden said.
“When we play (our game), we’re a fantastic team and no one can beat us,” he said.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to get far in the playoffs.”