Blake Boaz won’t always show up on the scoresheet for the Fort Frances Lakers this season, but his impact on the outcome will not go unnoticed by those with an eye for the game.
The 18-year-old is a defensive-minded forward who excels at the little things that make a big difference, especially when the marbles are on the line.
“I’ll be a guy that takes care of my own end first and hopefully chips in offensively from time-to-time,” Boaz remarked.
The MacGregor, Man. native is a positive influence both on and off the ice for a young team trying to find its way in Junior ‘A’—and that’s no better exemplified than by the “A” he wears on his jersey.
“We have a lot of rookies on the team, and even having that one year makes a world of difference,” noted Boaz, who played 54 games for the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives in his rookie junior campaign last season.
“I remember my first game; I was star-struck out there and lost,” he admitted. “It’s a whole new level.
“My first 10 games I was all nerves because you are suddenly going up against older, faster, and bigger guys.
“From [Midget] ‘AAA’ to Junior ‘A’ was a major jump,” he added.
Lakers’ head coach Wayne Strachan said Boaz’s leadership skills have shown through from the get-go.
“For a young guy with experience, he was unanimously voted in as a captain,” Strachan said. “He is a player that knows the game and adapts to the style of the game when he has to.
“He will draw a big role for us as a defensive-minded centre, but has the ability to chip in offensively,” Strachan added. “[He’s] a player that comes prepared and works hard all the time in practice, dry-land [training], and games.”
Boaz brings a cool, confident demeanor he hopes will rub off on his teammates.
“It’s a whole new level, so I just try to be confident out there and help relax the young guys,” he reasoned.
Boaz found himself on the outside looking in when Neepawa brought in a new coach for this season, and was thankful for the opportunity to contribute here with the Lakers.
“New coach in Neepawa changed things up with recruits, so they sent me here,” he explained. “I talked to [Wayne Strachan] a little bit right when they were organizing camp because it was last-minute here.
“One of the things I liked when I talked to Wayne was [NCAA] Div. III,” he added. “There’s a Div. III league right in our backyard [Duluth], so there’s a Div. III scout at practically all of our games.
“It never hurts to get looked at.”
Despite having an eye towards his future after junior hockey, Boaz is enjoying the present playing the sport he loves full-time.
“I’m not prepared for school yet; not sure what I want to do for a living,” he admitted. “But [junior hockey] is a pretty good set-up. You live and eat for free and play hockey, so I can’t complain.
“I’ve still got a couple of years before I go off to school. I’m not quite ready to grow up yet,” he smiled.
Boaz is billeting, along with teammate Jake Ransom, with Dave and Brenda Gustafson, and said he has nothing but good things to say about the town of Fort Frances thus far.
“It’s a nice town, nothing to complain about,” he remarked. “From what I’ve seen, it’s a hockey town and everyone loves their hockey here, and that’s what you want.
“Bigger crowds than I’m used to back home in MacGregor, that’s for sure,” Boaz added with a laugh.
“It’s no fun playing in front of an empty rink, so I like that.”
The 5’10”, 180-pound forward scored his first SIJHL goal against the Wisconsin Mustangs last Wednesday night, and now has three points in five games on the season.
He’s riding a three-game point streak going into tonight’s game in Dryden against the Ice Dogs.