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Hockey player returns to the blueline for the Xtreme

By: Lucas Punkari

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 10:29 am

Airdrie Xtreme defender Ryan Straschnitzki battled with Lethbridge Golden Hawks forward Brody Hansen in front of Xtreme net during a AMHL game on Dec. 15 in Airdrie.
Airdrie Xtreme defender Ryan Straschnitzki battled with Lethbridge Golden Hawks forward Brody Hansen in front of Xtreme net during a AMHL game on Dec. 15 in Airdrie.
Lucas Punkari/Rocky View Publishing

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It’s not often a hockey player swiches positions when he is in his teens, but Airdrie native Ryan Straschnitzki did just that this season as the 14 year old moved from forward to defence in order to make the Airdrie Xtreme and play in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL).

“When I was in Peewee AA a couple of years ago, I played on defence when they needed players, and while I played as a forward for all of my hockey career, I ended up really enjoying playing on defence a lot more than I did playing as a forward,” Straschnitzki said.

“I found that I was better at that position and I had a better sense of the ice than I did as a forward.”

“I feel that I can see the ice really well back there, and I think a lot of that comes from working hard in practice and watching video to see what I can do better,” he added.

Straschnitzki’s return to defence ended up paying off for him, as he made it onto this year’s Xtreme team and has six assists in 21 games so far this season.

“Ryan is a real strong skater and a good puck moving defenceman, and that is why he made this team,” Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer said.

“We really like his speed and how he thinks the game, as he is someone that we have had playing in all kinds of situations.”

In addition to working on his overall strength and his shot from the point, Straschnitzki has been able to learn some things from his fellow teammates that he believes has led to some improvements in his game.

“My defensive partner is Jacob Bernard-Docker, and we work really well together,” Straschnitzki said.

“I also look up to (Zachary) Bokenfohr and (Landon) Melzer, as they both see the ice really well, especially in our last game (on Dec. 15) where Bokenfohr had three assists just from seeing where Gary (Haden) was going to be moving to.”

Although he’s now a defenceman, one of the players Straschnitzki looks up to in the National Hockey League (NHL) is Chicago Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews, who Straschnitzki had the chance to play road hockey with in 2006.

“I was living in Calgary at the time, and he had come over to play with my neighbour there during one of Team Canada’s World Junior camps, as he knew their family,” Straschnitzki said. “Jonathan really taught me a lot during our game, and I’ve really looked up to him to see what it takes to make it to the next level.”

“I’m working hard to get my level of play up to that top level and to be consistently playing at the top of my game,” he added.

“I want to make it to the WHL (Western Hockey League) and maybe the NHL some day, but I just want to play wherever I end up and keep on doing what I love to do.”

Straschnitzki and the rest of the Xtreme are on the road for a pair of games this weekend, as it concludes its AMBHL slate before the holidays.

The team will be in Calgary on Dec. 21 for a 6:45 p.m. game with the Calgary Bisons, before concluding its road trip with a 1:15 contest against the Camrose Vikings on Dec. 22.


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