Stoll Back in the saddle with the ICE

By Jeff Bromley

Stoll Back in the saddle with the ICE

The return of Jarrett Stoll back to the Kootenay ICE from the Calgary Flames training camp produces some obvious mixed emotions for both the player and his Kootenay fans. The ardent process of the junior game is to ready the player for the inevitable next step in hockey, the professional ranks. But at the same time from a fan’s standpoint it’s hard to see them go any earlier than the graduated age of twenty.

It appears as though ICE fans will get their wish and have last season’s leading point-getter in the Blue, White and Bronze for at least one more season.

Although returned from his second NHL training camp after being drafted in the second round (46th overall) in the 2000 NHL Draft by the Flames, disappointment wasn’t foremost on the mind of the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native. “There’s a little bit,” said Stoll of the disappointment of being sent back. “But going there I just wanted to have a better camp than I did last year and I think that I showed I had improved. I think I did that by playing really well, every part of my game improved and they (the Flames) were really happy so, coming back is a little bit disappointing but I don’t think it’s going to hurt me by any means.

“It’s also good to get back and not miss any games and get right into it and see the guys again.”

Going into Flames camp Stoll had no reservations even though the pro club had added to its depth at Stoll’s natural position, center. Not the least of which was Cranbrook native Rob Neidermayer who also doubles as part owner of the ICE. “I did and I didn’t,” said Stoll. “I had a good camp and I didn’t feel out of place at all and I had a good exhibition game against Minnesota and felt very comfortable and confident actually.”

Looking ahead to the 2001-02 season for the Kootenay ICE, Stoll doesn’t feel any more pressure than usual befitting the fact that the club is again ranked number in the CHL by The Hockey News and is expected to be in the upper echelon of the WHL clubs. That coupled with the fact that Stoll is almost a lock to make the World Junior National team that will compete at the World Junior Championships in late December and early January and that most pundits and prognosticators have picked Stoll to lead the league or be among the top three in scoring presents an inordinate amount of expectations on the gifted pivot.

Does the pressure get to him sometimes? Nothing out of the ordinary says Stoll. “No, all that is I think is just talk,” said Stoll referring to the rankings and the scoring expectations. “People can talk all they want but the last thing it’s going to come down to is how we play on the ice.

“It’s no different than last year (when the ICE were also ranked number one to start the season), we’ve got to come out and play hard. It doesn’t matter where you’re ranked, rankings don’t mean a whole lot because you still got to play.”

Piled on top the aforementioned pressures and expectations is the fact that Stoll will most surely be pegged as one of the leaders on the club not only on the scoreboard but on the bench and in the dressing room as well. It is a role that Stoll says that he will relish. “Yeah, definitely,” said Stoll. “I’ll embrace that role with everything I’ve got and if it means scoring goals, killing a penalty or sitting out for a penalty I’ll do whatever it takes to win.

“There’s a lot of guys in that room that feel the same way and that have the same attitude that bodes well for our team.”

Quick Hits – With Stoll’s return, the ICE only have one player left in the ranks of the NHL that is eligible to return, Dan Blackburn who is still with the New York Rangers. Blackburn, 18, is surprising many of the experts and has an outside chance of sticking with the club. In a game against New Jersey at MSG Blackburn garnered first star honors in 32 minutes of play, a 6-1 drubbing of the Devils.