Oilers land pair of nominations
Hockey: Tariq Hammond, Jared D'Amico finalists for league awards
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
Two of the Okotoks Oilers defensive pillars received their just due league acclaim last week.
Third-year Oilers Tariq Hammond and Jared D’Amico were named Alberta Junior Hockey League Awards finalists, as outstanding defenceman and top goaltender, the league announced in a press release on Friday.
Hammond, fourth among AJHL blueliners with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists), has doubled his career high in points as the stabilizing force on the back-end and one of just five Oilers to dress in every game this season.
“I’ve been happy with how I’ve played,” Hammond said. “The coaches have given me every opportunity to excel and be the go-to-guy and I’ve just taken that and run with it so far.
“One major thing is coach putting major opportunities in front of me and I’ve capitalized on them. I’m not a big goal scorer so I just try to get the puck on the net and guys around me put the puck in.
“It’s made me look good that’s for sure.”
Through three seasons in Oilers colours, Hammond has seen his role transform from fresh-faced rookie fighting for a spot in the lineup, to promising sophomore on a veteran defence corps to the backbone of the blueline in 2013-14.
“It’s a lot of fun being that go-to-guy. You have to be ready every night and can’t have off games,” said Hammond, 20. “When you’re a younger guy you don’t have much ice-time, but now you’re an older guy and expected to perform every night.”
With great power comes great responsibility and, fortunately for the Oilers, Hammond is as responsible as they come on the back-end.
“He’s been a horse for us and definitely logs a lot of minutes,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “A lot of times just with his skating he gets out of trouble in our d-zone, the physical presence and offensively he’s done a lot of good things this year.
“In terms of being a two-way player, he’s a huge part of our team.”
The Calgarian is bidding to become the second Oiler in the past four seasons to win the W.G. Scott Memorial Trophy, given to the top blueliner, with hard-nosed rearguard Colten Hayes taking home the award in 2010-11.
The other nominees are Canmore Eagles top-scoring defenceman Trey Phillips, an Okotoks native, Lloydminster Bobcats captain Grant Baker and Spruce Grove Saint Corey Chorneyko.
“They’re all great defencemen and just to be in a question with those guys is pretty special,” Hammond said. “Just to be with those guys is a big honour.”
If the sensation is new to Hammond, it’s a familiar one to his teammate.
It’s the second year in a row D’Amico is a finalist for the award, having lost out to Grande Prairie’s Nick Kulmanovsky last season.
It’s been something of a rollercoaster season for the Chestermere native, who enjoyed a brilliant start to the campaign, cooled off considerably in November, and has since rounded into playoff form. All told, he’s fourth in the league with 25 wins.
“There has been some ups and downs for sure,” D’Amico said.
“During the ups it’s been good, during the downs it’s been a little bit of a battle. Overall I’m happy with my season.
“The biggest thing is you want to play your best hockey at the most important times, that’s how teams win.”
D’Amico is up against Canmore Eagles freshman sensation Ryan Ferguson, Spruce Grove Saint Kenny Cameron and Fort McMurray Oil Baron Tanner Jaillet, who’s also nominated in the most valuable player category.
“It’s tough to forecast who will get it. Numbers-wise, (Jared) is probably fourth of the fourth guys, so he might be in tough,” Poole said. “But in terms of his ability, come playoff time if I had to choose one goalie on my team, he’d be the guy I would want.
“His focus is making sure he finishes strong and really has a great playoffs.”
The Oilers have yet to yield top-goaltender honours in their history, though netminder Bradley Eidsness took home the most-valuable player award after his stellar 2007-08 campaign.
“It’s an honour to be nominated for that, but first thing is as a team we’ve got to go far in the playoffs,” said D’Amico, hopeful the nomination will aid his pursuit of collegiate hockey. “Ultimately my goal is to go the scholarship route, but we’ll wait and see.”
For more information go to ajhl.ca