Dynamic duo sharing the wealth
Hockey: Bisons bluelinrs Matt Howatt, Bryce Honish providing huge offence
Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014 06:00 am
The play of one of the Okotoks Bisons’ top defence pairs has been downright offensive this season.
Blueline partners Matt Howatt and Bryce Honish are injecting the Jr. B Bisons with an added dose of point production as top-five scorers in the league at their position for an Okotoks team expected to struggle to score goals in 2013-14.
“We had a lot of offensive guys that left last year so I thought I would try and step it up this year,” said Howatt, the Heritage Junior Hockey League’s top scoring defenceman with 10 goals and 32 points in 30 games. “We’ve got really good defensive forward lines so me and Bryce as a d-pairing try to step it up and score some goals.”
Howatt’s campaign coupled with Honish’s 23 points (three goals, 20 assists), good for fifth in the league, have gone a long way to propelling Okotoks to a South Division leading 139 goals.
“We’ve just been clicking. We got some chemistry early on and have been really good on the powerplay together,” said Honish, a second-year Bison. “We complement each other well. He’ll jump up, I’ll stay back.”
For BJ Horsey, the Bisons’ director of player personnel, the effectiveness of the partnership results from their dissimilar virtues on the ice.
“Honish sees the ice really well. He gets a good read when the breakout happens ahead of the play,” Horsey said. “Howatt probably wouldn’t admit he’s an offensive player, but he works so hard that he’s in the right position all the time.”
Far from reluctant to rush the puck up the ice himself, when Howatt does seldom find himself out of position he uses his blazing speed to skate himself out of trouble.
“Howatt is a d-partner that you take advantage of because he’ll always be there on the back-end,” Horsey added. “Honish can take the chance to make the offensive play and Howatt’s always got his back.”
Honish, who cuts an imposing figure as a 5-foot-11, 225-pound rearguard, has been something of a pleasant surprise to a Bisons’ brass who had him pegged as a stay-at-home blueliner entering the Junior B jungle in 2012-13.
“We thought that’s what we would have been for us. A big guy, likes to hit, tough kid,” said Horsey. “Bryce went from a more defensive role last year and just trying to fit in and earn his spot and this year because he’s confident, it’s expanded offensively.
“He’s taking advantage of ice-time, he’s a year older and he was with us last year and went through our run.”
Honish, a 2011 Holy Trinity Academy graduate and provincial champion with the Okotoks Midget AA Oilers, admitted 2013-14 has been something of a coming-out-party offensively.
“This year I’ve jumped it up,” Honish said. “We lost a few parts, but we’ve come together as a team and stepped it up. The forwards have picked up the slack and put up the secondary scoring and we’ve got a lot of depth.”
Where Howatt’s speed, agility and positioning inform his offence, his defence partner’s acumen is drawn directly from his poise and composure with the puck.
“He works on his hands and that allows him to get out of situations you wouldn’t think he would be able to,” Howatt said. “It’s key to not panic in those situations on the blueline. Instead of just firing it down, he’s taking that extra second to look for that open guy.”
Offence is nothing new for Howatt – a fierce competitor whose tenacity belies his five-foot-eight, 160-pound frame – a fourth-year Bison and alternate captain.
The Chestermere native is one shy of 100 points with the organization, established a career high with 33 points last year and is well on his way to eclipsing the mark in this his final season in Bisons colours.
Not that the affable 21-year-old is wrapped up in a personal points race.
“It would be nice,” Howatt noted,” but the main goal here is win everything this year. To go out on top at the Keystone.”