Complete defenceman now a Pioneer
Hockey: Tariq Hammond earns scholarship to University of Denver
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 06:00 am
One of the steadying forces on the Okotoks Oilers will be pioneering to the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountains next year.
Third-year defenceman Tariq Hammond found himself a collegiate home last week after earning a scholarship to play NCAA hockey with the famed University of Denver Pioneers in 2014-15.
“I started talking to them after that pre-season tournament (in Okotoks) they said I had a couple good games and kept an eye on me through the start of the season and showcase,” Hammond said. “The offer went down on Wednesday and I talked it over with my parents and asked a whole bunch of trusted people.”
“It felt like a good fit and I accepted it.”
The Pioneers are one of the most successful programs in the NCAA.
Denver and North Dakota’s seven national championships are second only to Michigan. Notable Pioneers alumni include hall-of-famer Glenn Anderson, Kevin Dineen and current NHLers Matt Carle, Paul Stastny and Tyler Bozak.
“It’s a pretty prestigious school. You can’t say any bad things about them,” Hammond said. “They have such a good hockey record and it’s a good school to go to, so I was just sold right there.”
The scholarship offered a big sigh of relief for the hard-hitting blueliner in his third and final year wearing Oilers colours.
“It’s a big monkey off my back,” he said. “I’ve been working for this since I came to Okotoks.”
“Now I can focus on the team and working towards a championship.”
The 19-year-old has come a long way since cracking the roster in 2011-12 as something of a late bloomer out of the Calgary Northstars Midget AAA program.
“We had a really good recruiting class three years ago in terms of defencemen,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “Looking at how it was at camp we had Tariq kind of on the outside looking in for earning a spot here.”
“With his work-ethic and attitude he earned himself a spot and obviously we’re really glad it worked out that way because he’s been great for us.”
Hammond has totaled nine goals and 41 points in 108 games as a supremely reliable two-way defenceman with a smooth skating stride and a knack for open ice hitting.
“Coaching staff has a lot to do with (my evolution). Putting me in situations to make me excel,” Hammond said. “Okotoks has been a big part of where I am today and how I’ve achieved this scholarship.”
He’s enjoying his enjoying his best offensive season, tied for the team lead with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 11 games.
“Offence was a bit of a struggle for me in my first two years,” he said. “It seems to be picking up this year and it definitely helps you get noticed by scouts.”
The Holy Trinity Academy graduate looks to have his academic framework planned out as well. He’s looking to follow in the business footsteps of his father Jon Hammond, a Memorial Cup champion with the Regina Pats in 1974.
“They have a top-notch business program,” he said. “My goal after hockey is to take over my dad’s job as a financial advisor, so that will work perfectly.”
The Oilers saw their six-game winning streak come to an end on Thanksgiving Sunday in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
Trailing 2-0 after forty minutes, Tanner Ockey kick started the comeback bid before Hammond tied it up on the powerplay. In three-on-three overtime, Pontiac Tommy Barszcz converted on a two-on-one opportunity to give the visitors the two points. Okotoks outshot Bonnyville 37-18 in a losing cause at Pason Centennial Arena.
“It was a little frustrating, but we all knew in the second intermission that we were going to score,” Ockey said. “We all had that feeling and it finally came.”
“Wish we would have won that won though.”
Okotoks posted one of its best efforts of the season in edging the visiting Camrose Kodiaks 2-1 on Saturday. Rookie Rhett Gardner registered his first goal with Okotoks before former Kodiak Ty Clay scored the game-winner for the Oil.
“Even though we were outshot, we didn’t give up many scoring chances,” Poole said. “Our work ethic was really good and it was probably one of the better defensive games we’ve played all year long.”
After enjoying a brief home stand, the Oilers (8-2-2) return to the road for a demanding weekend in Central Alberta. Okotoks is in Lloydminster, Spruce Grove and Sherwood Park for back-to-back-to-back contests from Oct. 18-20.
On Oct. 23, Okotoks faces off with the South Division leading Brooks Bandits. The Oilers return home on Oct. 25 for a date with the Canmore Eagles. For more information go to okotoksoilers.ca