Airdrie Techmation Thunder forward Andrew McLennan made his season debut after missing the first 18 games, playing an integral part in both the Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 games.
The 21-year-old made an immediate impact, scoring a hat trick in the 3-1 victory against the Medicine Hat Cubs Nov. 24, and tacked on a fourth goal during a 4-3 loss to the Coaldale Copperheads the next day.
“By the time I got into the games I felt really good, especially playing with the guys,” McLennan said. “I was happy I was able to compete and keep up with everybody on the ice.
“(The hat trick) was the best way to get back into the season with a bang for sure. It was all thanks to the rest of my teammates who set me up with two great goals and the empty netter.”
McLennan had been recovering from a fractured tibia in his left leg, which he said was diagnosed this spring and took until the end of November to finally recover enough to get back out on the ice with the Thunder.
Although it was a long recovery, McLennan remained dedicated to his teammates, travelling with the team, appearing at games and offering them support between periods and before and after games.
Although he wanted to be a good teammate, he said it was hard only being able to do that from the bench.
“After 16 years of hockey, this is the longest stretch that I’ve ever sat out in any season,” McLennan said. “The hardest thing was sitting there watching your teammates and knowing you couldn’t make a difference other than off the ice with positive encouragement.”
Coming into his final year of junior hockey eligibility, McLennan was determined to return to the lineup and opted to postpone surgery, which would have put an end to his hopes of returning this season.
“As far as it goes, I’m good to go now and playing for the rest of the season,” McLennan. “All looks well, but it was a debilitating injury for sure.
“Hockey has always been a big part of my life and I didn’t want to lose that.”
McLennan said his teammates were supportive during his recovery and helped keep him involved with the team.
Even though he is only in his second year with the Thunder, after transferring from the Blackfalds Wranglers, McLennan said he has fit in with his team and has missed being on the ice with his squad.
For most players, finishing off your tenure in any league and winning a league championship is always a great way to go out, and McLennan said that would be no different for him.
He said he has high expectations for the team to be contending for a Heritage Junior Hockey League title and making a deep push into the playoffs.