Jake Rawlins celebrated his St. Albert Steel debut in a losing cause Saturday against the Grande Prairie Storm.
The 19-year-old defenceman scored once and added one assist as the Steel’s player of the game in the 4-2 Alberta Junior Hockey League loss at Performance Arena. Attendance was 195.
“I’m happy to be home,” Rawlins said after the Steel’s 14th loss in 19 games. “I know a lot of guys on the team. I feel comfortable here already so it didn’t turn out too bad for me to come here.”
Last week the Steel acquired the former midget AAA St. Albert Raider from the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for 20-year-old defenceman Dane Olsen.
“I got the call early in the morning. I didn’t really expect it at all,” Rawlins said. “I guess one door closes and another one opens.”
He wasn’t concerned about the Steel’s losing record when the trade was announced.
“No, not really. I’m just focused on playing my game and doing the little things to make the game flow a lot better and not to make mistakes,” Rawlins said. “The biggest thing is to play a little bit more to win and that is what is going to help us out.”
Rawlins was pointless in nine games with Humboldt after recording one goal and four assists in 44 games last season.
“My first year of junior I was more of a steady defensive defenceman, a shut-down guy who kept pucks out of the net,” said the Paul Kane High School graduate. “This year I’m trying to expand my role as a player and obviously that’s offensive. I’m going to do my best to put pucks on net and help out the boys offensively.”
Rawlins jumped into the play so many times against the Storm he looked like an extra forward on the ice.
“It’s definitely a hard thing to get into your mind but you’ve got to do it.”
Rawlins opened the scoring from the high slot at 4:29 in period two on a setup by John Baird.
Baird got it down low [in the corner]and their forward wasnt covering me very well so I just jumped down towards the net. He gave me a really good pass and I just buried my head and shot. It was a really good feeling to score like that.
Rawlins also assisted on forward Craig Dworshak’s tying marker early in the third. The goal was the second in two games with the Steel by the former player with the Kindersley Klippers and Drayton Valley Thunder.
The Storm went on to score the game winner and insurance marker during a 49-second span before the nine-minute mark of the period against the third-worst defensive team in the AJHL. Rhys Hadfield (2-8, 4.91) was solid throughout the contest, but let in an easy goal by Tanner Labbe, a former Steel forward, that put the Storm up by two. Shots were 35-30 for the visitors.
“The first period we came out a little bit flatter than we wanted. The second period we came out quick and then kind of let them battle back into the game. The third period we just didn’t play to win so we didn’t end up getting the two points,” Rawlins said.
The seventh loss in eight games left the struggling Steel (3-14-2) nine points back of the Storm (7-10-3) for the seventh and last playoff spot in the north.
This weekend the Steel have three road games on tap in three days. They play the Lloydminster Bobcats (12-5-2) Friday at 7:30 p.m., the AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints (15-1-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Sherwood Park Crusaders (12-5-2) Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The next home game is Tuesday against the Saints at 7 p.m. The Steel are 1-6-2 at Servus Credit Union Place.