Okotokian finding a home with Mustangs
Hockey: Josh Betinol lands in Calgary on third team in whirlwind sophomore season
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 09:33 pm
It took a few detours through three provinces and a trio of leagues for an Okotoks Junior hockey star to find his way home.
Okotokian Josh Betinol started the season with the Battlefords North Stars in Saskatchewan was then moved to the Vernon Vipers in the Okanagan before being acquired by the Calgary Mustangs in early November.
“I was excited to get playing and to finally have a home,” said Betinol on joining the Mustangs, one of the top Alberta Junior Hockey League rivals of the Okotoks Oilers. “It’s a chance to live at home and play with a great organization like the Mustangs.”
On the heels of a stellar rookie campaign with the North Stars, the 19-year-old centre’s eyes gazed westward with the ultimate goal of post-secondary hockey in mind.
“I thought it was time for a new look,” he said. “I’m trying to get a scholarship and I thought I should try a different area where I might have a better shot.
“That’s not a hit against Saskatchewan. I had a great time in that league with a great organization.”
His tenure with the Vipers, hosts of the 2014 RBC Cup national Junior A championships, lasted all of 10 games.
“It was kind of bittersweet coming here from Vernon. Them being RBC Cup hosts, that’s a big goal for every Junior A player,” Betinol said. “But for my development purposes, the role they had me in wasn’t what I was used to.
“Coming to Calgary I’m getting a lot more opportunity. I really like it here.”
Swapping uniforms three times in a season is far from ideal for a Junior hockey player, but since donning the blue-white-and-yellow uniform Betinol has been a model citizen for the Stangs.
“When he got here, we sat him down and said this is a fresh start for you, try and treat it like it’s your first Junior team,” said Mustangs head coach Derek Stuart. “We told him ‘unless you make us move you, we have no plans of moving you at all. You’re a Mustang for the rest of your Junior career.’”
After a short stint with the Vipers, Betinol was jettisoned to the Stampede City in exchange for forward Chase McMurphy – a ’93 born forward who spent most of the season with Tri City of the United States Hockey League.
“We felt it was better off for Chase to be away from his hometown and to try and get a chance with the RBC hosts,” Stuart said. “We’re getting a 94 who’s coming back to us next year and has a lot of skill.”
“We acquired a very good player who’s making an impact with us so far.”
Stuart, a former assistant coach with the Jr. A Oilers, saw bits and pieces of Betinol during his tenure with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons and in spring hockey. Seeing the forward on an everyday basis has given the first-year Mustangs bench boss an added appreciation.
“I knew of him, but I didn’t quite know exactly what we were getting,” Stuart said. “I’d heard all about his skill and knew that was there, but his work ethic is very impressive. He goes hard every shift, even in practice.
“He’s got a little bit of that Kamikaze style the way he throws his body out there and sacrifices.”
Betinol is seeing top-six minutes and extensive specialty teams duty after earning the trust of his coaching staff by stepping right into his first practice session with the Mustangs and establishing himself as one of the team’s hardest workers.
“It’s nice to have coaches that believe in my ability. It makes a world of difference,” Betinol said. “When I was in Vernon I felt like there was no belief in me. Coming here, Stewy and the assistant coaches have believed in me right from the get-go.”
He’s made the most of his opportunities. Through seven games in Calgary, Betinol’s registered three goals and six points – highlighted by scoring the game-winning tally over his hometown Oilers on Friday in Okotoks.
“I picked it off their guy on the PK and we were going in on a 2-on-1 and I was trying to shoot far pad to get a rebound for (Connor) Collett,” said Betinol, playing his first game in Okotoks since Bantam. “It got up on me and went in.
“It was neat, especially with my family and a bunch of my friends in the stands.”
The first of many memories he and the Mustangs are hoping to cultivate in a South Division looking very much up for grabs. Calgary (14-13-2) sits just 11 points behind first-place Brooks.
“Short term, we break our season up in to seven-game series. Long-term we do want to win the AJHL and meet Vernon at the RBC Cup,” said Betinol, noting the parity in the division. “Last year Brooks was a step above everyone else. It makes it exciting (this year). You can make a jump in the standings every game.”