Jones shows he’s fit for start­ing goalie role

As­so­ci­ate coach says Jones is well suited to take over from Dy­lan Wells

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - MIKE DAVIES Ex­am­iner Sports Di­rec­tor [email protected]­ter­bor­ough­daily.com

If his fit­ness test re­sults are any in­di­ca­tion Hunter Jones is bet­ter prepared this year to as­sume the Peter­bor­ough Petes start­ing goalie role left va­cant by Dy­lan Wells.

Fill­ing those skates is a lot to ask of a goalie with 15 games of OHL ex­pe­ri­ence who posted a 3-9 record last sea­son with a 5.14 GAA and .866 save per­cent­age.

But Jones is the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the six goalies who par­tic­i­pated in Wed­nes­day night’s Ma­roon and White Game at the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre which ended train­ing camp.

Jones was im­pres­sive in the scrim­mages al­low­ing the fewest goals against of the six goalies but he strug­gled in the Ma­roon and White Game al­low­ing four goals in one pe­riod.

Petes as­so­ci­ate coach and goalie men­tor An­drew Verner has faith in Jones who he hand-picked in the fifth-round of the 2016 OHL draft be­cause of the po­ten­tial he saw in the six-foot-four, 195-pound Brant­ford na­tive.

Hockey Canada rec­og­nized some­thing, too, se­lect­ing him for both the World Un­der-17 Hockey Chal­lenge and the 2016 World Jr. A Chal­lenge based on his im­pres­sive 2016-17 show­ing as a 16-year-old with the OJHL’s Stouf­fville Spirit where he was 7-7 with a 2.74 GAA and .917 save per­cent­age.

“When we drafted him in the fifth round we felt like it was a steal,” Verner said.

“Hockey Canada kind of re­in­forced that. Four guys were drafted ahead of Hunter that year and only two of them made a Cana­dian un­der-17 team.”

Verner said Jones was in a tough spot last year play­ing be­hind a goalie be­ing con­sid­ered for the na­tional ju­nior team.

“Hunter had to sit and watch Dy­lan play on back-to-back nights. Hunter would some­times get the scraps; a third game in three nights af­ter tough travel or a Sun­day Ot­tawa game at 2 af­ter a Satur­day night home game. To us, he showed flashes es­pe­cially early in the year.”

That was through a lack of play­ing time, and even train­ing time, due to a high school sched­ule which lim­ited his off-ice work­outs com­pared to older play­ers, Verner said.

“Through no fault of his own,” Verner said.

“When he did get to play later in the year his game-con­di­tion­ing wasn’t there for him. He al­ways had good starts but faded in the sec­ond-half of games.”

Verner chal­lenged Jones, who doesn’t turn 18 un­til Sept. 21, to com­mit him­self to off-ice con­di­tion­ing so he can han­dle a po­ten­tial 50-game work­load.

“We just got our fit­ness re­sults back and he had un­be­liev­able re­sults,” Verner said.

“He put the time in this sum­mer and im­proved more than any of our re­turn­ing play­ers.”

Be­cause of his late birth date, Jones wasn’t el­i­gi­ble for the NHL draft last sea­son and Verner says scouts have ex­pressed a lot of in­ter­est in see­ing what he can do this sea­son. He may have a lot to prove but Verner says that’s part of the na­ture of ju­nior hockey.

“He’s a per­fect mi­cro­cosm of our team,” Verner said.

“Most of our guys are 2000s and are tak­ing on roles they started to fill out at the end of last sea­son through trades and at­tri­tion.

“We think they can all do it based on ju­nior hockey. Each year you are a year older and ev­ery year the league is a year worse for you. The ex­pec­ta­tion is that group of 2000s who are tak­ing on big­ger roles can all han­dle it.”

Jones says he’s ready for the chal­lenge. “I’m com­ing into camp with my best foot for­ward,” Jones said. “I feel great af­ter hav­ing a hard-work­ing sum­mer. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and 100 per cent a bet­ter goalie than last year. It was great learn­ing from Dy­lan through­out the year and get­ting some ex­pe­ri­ence through him and prac­tis­ing ev­ery day with the guys. I def­i­nitely feel ready to go.”

Jones said the most valu­able les­son he learned last sea­son was about the men­tal ap­proach to hockey.

“Just stay pos­i­tive through­out the year,” Jones said.

“Last year a lot of my prob­lem is I wasn’t play­ing very much and ev­ery time I got into the net it was al­most like I was try­ing to prove some­thing, to try to play more, with ev­ery start. I was think­ing about it too much. I think the best thing for me this year is to just take it one game at a time, one day at a time, and not over­think things.”

The Petes will prac­tice Thurs­day and Fri­day be­fore play­ing their first ex­hi­bi­tion game Satur­day night on the road against the Guelph Storm. They host the Oshawa Gen­er­als at 2 p.m. Sun­day at the PMC.

NOTE: See Petes Pieces on Page B10.

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT EX­AM­INER

Team Ma­roon goalie Hunter Jones eyes a puck in the air against Team White dur­ing the an­nual Ma­roon and White game on Wed­nes­day night at the Me­mo­rial Cen­tre. See Petes Pieces on Page B10 and more pho­tos in on­line gallery at www.thep­eter­bor­oughex­am­iner.com.

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