By Kris Smith

The four rookie players signed to the Kitmart Dundee Stars roster this season are all excited about making the step-up to the professional level.

Alex Leclerc, Reilly O’Connor, Colton Kroeker and Brett Stovin all played in the university and college leagues in North America last season.

Now the quartet are ready to play their first full season with a professional team and begin their careers as pro hockey players.

Newly recruited netminder, Leclerc was part of the Colorado College team for four seasons before being signed up by Omar Pacha.

 

On making the step-up, Alex said:

“I think the college level helped me tremendously to bring my game to the professional level and it prepared me very well.

“Obviously there is a major difference between the pro level and college but for me, I have learned to read different situations, especially as a goaltender.

“I think the main difference between the college level and the pro level over here would be that the best guys from college make it to the pros, therefore their all smarter and in the best shape of their lives.”

However, the Quebec-born keeper has already played one professional match, as last year he played the last month of the East Coast Hockey League season with Utah Grizzlies, making one appearance.

“I really enjoyed my experience with Utah, playing one month with a pro mentality and it was clear in the way they trained and act on the ice, I believe it helped me a lot to prepare for this year”, added Leclerc.

O’Connor is the only rookie defenseman in the Stars ranks this season and the English-born Canadian is looking forward to the challenge of stepping up.

Reilly said:

“I am really looking forward to it, it is going to be a challenge at first adapting to the different speed and guys being stronger.

“The overall speed of the game might be faster than what I have played in the past at university level but I am really looking forward to that challenge as well and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

The University of Guelph graduate knows he will be up against tougher opposition than what he faced in the USports league.

“You have to be ready, you have to be fast and ready to match their speed, you have to be able to read the situations that are coming up”, continued O’Connor.

Forward, Kroeker left the Mount Royal University programme this summer after one year to join the Stars but had a very successful junior career in the Western Hockey League.

The centreman is confident he is ready to make the move into professional hockey and said:

“I think it will be a lot tougher than university, everyone is a bit stronger and more skilled.

“The toughest part could be the strength of everyone, everyone is older in this league and stronger, with more speed and I am just going to have to adapt to that as quick as I can.

“However, I think that my time at university has gotten me more ready than I thought I would have been for getting to this point in my career.”

The junior leagues in North America try to prepare players for making the switch to professional hockey as some can bypass the academic route.

“After playing in the WHL for four years, that helped me to get to this point, everyone is trying to get as far as they can in hockey and trying to get to the pros”, added Kroeker.

Finally, Stovin has played the last four seasons with the University of Manitoba and the versatile player admits it will be tough and will take some time to acclimatise to his new surroundings.

 

Brett said:

“It is obviously going to be a tough adaptation, it will take a bit of time.

“You have new linemates and pretty much an entire new team to learn.

“Coming here, everything is brand new, the systems are new and the opponents are new.

“The toughest challenge will definitely be the speed and size of everybody.

“I think all the rookies can say the same thing coming from university, where there is a lot of juniors and smaller guys but here it is the best of the best from university, who get a chance to play at this level.

“It is just about getting yourself to that level and understanding the game at a high pace will be the hardest part.

Leadership qualities are present throughout a players career and Stovin has held a number of leadership roles throughout his career and he is ready to continue to step-up and lead at the pro level too.

Stovin continued:

”Here we have a good leadership core, the older guys are great and the guys that have been around are helping us a lot.

“As a guy with a lot of leadership experience, I want to try and take it upon myself to try and take a leadership role within the rookies and the younger guys that are in there first year here.

“I will just try to watch the leaders that are here and see guys like Boots (Shawn Boutin) and Mags (Matt Marquardt) and Dowzy (Drydn Dow) and see what they do and see how they act.

“I just want to get in as much as I can with the community, with the fans and try to take a leadership role that way with the younger core.”

Tickets still available for this weekend’s games from Dundee Ice Arena or HERE!

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Kitmart Dundee Stars Team
13 Games
2 Wins
7 Losses
1 OT Losses
7 Points