Strong start for Jones between pipes
Goalie named to Team OHL roster for Canada-Russia series in Oshawa
Hunter Jones has been a revelation in the Peterborough Petes’ net this season.
Coming off a rookie season where he appeared in just 15 games with less than flattering statistics perhaps the biggest question facing the team, with the graduation of Dylan Wells to the pros, was in goal.
More than one-quarter of the way into the season it’s been the least of the club’s concerns. Jones ranks second in the OHL in wins (11) and save percentage (.926), third in goals against average (2.54) for goalies with 10 or more games and leads all goalies in minutes played (1,016) and saves (535).
It’s added up to a selection by Hockey Canada to Team OHL’s roster for Monday’s CIBC Canada-Russia Series game at Oshawa’s Tribute Communities Centre. The series is used to evaluate potential players for Canada’s world junior team. Before that , the Petes will host the Hamilton Bulldogs 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Memorial Centre.
Jones has been on Hockey Canada’s radar before. He participated in both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the World Junior A Hockey Challenge two years ago.
But given his lack of OHL experience and last year’s statistics – a 3-9 record with a 5.14 GAA and .866 save percentage – Jones couldn’t be blamed for not making the Canada-Russia Series one of his pre-season goals.
“It wasn’t really a big goal of mine to play in the Canada-Russia Series,” said Jones. “I wanted to be involved in the CHL Top Prospects game for sure and I wanted to come into the season giving my team a chance to win every night. I just came in with that attitude and started having a lot of success early on in the season. I started getting rewarded with the CHL Goalie of the Week Award. That boosted my confidence a little bit and I just kept feeling the puck throughout the games. I just kept getting reward- ed as the games have gone on.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all but I think I deserve it with all the work I put in over the summer and the success I’m having early on in the season. I think both Declan and I deserve it.”
He’s referring to teammate and defenceman Declan Chisholm, who was also named to Team OHL. Petes associate coach Andrew Verner suggested he might be a candidate but Jones said he didn’t give it a lot of thought. He was playing video games at home prior to practice the day of the announcement when Verner texted confirmation of his selection.
“I knew there were some other big goalies in the league like Michael DiPietro and Matthew Villalta so I didn’t think I’d be in the conversation,” said Jones. “Just knowing it’s a stepping stone for the world junior team is exciting. I want to play on that team one day. I’m not sure it will be this year or not, it’s not a main goal of mine, but it would obviously be a huge accomplishment if that happened. To hear that news in my 18-year-old year is pretty surreal.”
His parents, grandparents and his girlfriend and her family have all got their tickets.
“I’m not sure if I’ll get into the net but I think they just want to see the atmosphere out there with a lot of the elite players in the OHL and Russia. It will be a cool moment.”
Because his birthday falls after Sept. 15 he wasn’t eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until June of 2019. It’s probably worked out best for his draft status and he’s just hoping to continue to play well. “It’s good with all the success I’m having and I’m pleased we’re winning as a team as a whole. It’s a lot better atmosphere than it was last year in the room. The mindset we have as a team is a lot better and it’s a lot more team-based. I think we’re just taking it day-by-day. When we were on a little bit of a losing slide, as we were two weeks ago, we just need to pick each other up and get back to our focus and our game plan. I have to go in every night and give our team a chance to win.”
Peterborough Petes goalie Hunter Jones blocks a shot against Sudbury Wolves during first period OHL action on Oct. 25 at the Memorial Centre.