Goalie Blake Simpson slid into the limelight at the under 15 (U15) tryouts for Team BC.
The 14-year-old Columbia Valley boy, who plays for the Bantam Rockies in the Windermere Valley Minor Hockey division, joined a roster of 120 hockey competitors in search of a spot on the B.C. hockey team, representing the Columbia Valley’s talent at national and international competitions at the U15 Okanagan/Kootenay Regional Tryouts in Kelowna between April 1st and 3rd.
“It was really fun,” Blake replied when asked about the competitive experience. “I learned a lot and met some new kids, made some new friends — it was a good time.”
Blake was joined at the U15 tryouts in Kelowna by his Bantam Rockies teammates Jagar Jefferson, Brendan Kruger and Nicholas Irons. Although the Columbia Valley’s talent did not advance at the U15 tryouts, their experience was worth gold as many of the athletes left Kelowna with constructive criticism for the next season.
“None of us made it on to the team, but we all got very good feedback from the evaluators,” Blake said, noting the goaltenders were the first group with ice time.
“They (the evaluators) told me that they liked my quickness, my intensity and they told me I need to work on knowing where my net is and tracking the puck.”
Blake is planning to practice running drills in the crease to making corrections to his performance for next season, as he is hoping to be invited to compete at the U16 camp. His goal is to play hockey aggressively while developing a greater understanding of where he’s standing in relation to the net on the ice.
“The evaluators wanted to see the goaltenders stay back in the net a little bit more, play the pass and watch for the backdoor goal,” said Blake’s father, Grant Simpson, noting that Blake began skating at the mere age of three and started playing hockey at about six years old.
“They’re easy corrections to make and (Blake) recognized that right off the bat.”
There were a total of 20 goaltenders divided into two groups competing for a spot on Team BC at the beginning of the U15 Okanagan/Kootenay Regional Tryouts. However, there were only four open spots for goaltenders on the team.
In addition, recruiters from Team BC set out to handpick 11 defenceman and 22 forwards for the roster.
The biggest challenge for goaltenders to showcase their skills at the U15 Okanagan/Kootenay Regional Tryouts came down to time as there were just 20 minutes allotted to each goalie during each hour-long session with four sessions in total over the weekend.
“Being in net is where most of the action is because the other team is always trying to shoot on you,” Blake added, while stating the competition was tough, “so I’m always working to keep the puck out of the net and that’s fun.”
“He’s a pretty energetic kid,” his father added.