Right wing Austin Wellsby (#17)

Right wing Austin Wellsby (#17)

Wellsby relishing expanded role as Ice host Tigers

Sophomore Austin Wellsby has found his way into a new role by keeping it simple and he plans to keep it that way

For Kootenay Ice winger Austin Wellsby, the answer has always been short and sweet — just keep it simple.

It’s the simple approach that has landed the 18-year-old native of Chilliwack on the top line alongside captain Luke Philp and veteran winger Zak Zborosky.

According to Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Wellsby’s willingness to follow the game plan and play within his role earned him the opportunity he has since run with.

“The mindset was trying to find a guy we could use as an example of who was following the game plan and doing some of the things we’d asked,” Pierce said Thursday. “Austin, right from day one, he was working really hard. He was being simple. He was following the plans. You want to set an example that you get rewarded for doing things the right way. His reward has been playing with two pretty good players.

“The reason why he’s continued to stay there is he isn’t changing who he is or what he does.

“He is doing a lot of the dirty work. He’s being responsible…He hasn’t changed his game and he’ll continue to have success if he has that mentality.”

Since arriving alongside Philp and Zborosky, the 6-foot-3 sophomore is maintaining that simple  mantra as he etches out a permanent role with two of the WHL’s most dangerous goal scorers.

“They’re obviously really special players,” Wellsby said Thursday. “Throughout practice and games, I’ve learned a lot from them, whether it’s little pointers in practice — they’re always looking for me to improve and I want to do the same.

“I’m still trying to continue to play my game — whether it’s playing hard on the forecheck or continuing to win battles — I haven’t tried to change my game too much.”

Though his linemates might be doing most of the finishing in and around the net, Wellsby is finding his way in that regard as well — Saturday against the Seattle Thunderbirds, the hard-working winger registered his second multi-point game of the season and his career, tallying a power-play goal and an assist.

Last season, the plucky winger managed one lone goal. This season, the former Chilliwack Bruin has already compiled two goals and six points in 17 games.

While the start to the 2015-16 campaign has been a rosy one for the affable Wellsby, last season left both him and others wondering what role there might be for him moving forward.

As a rookie under former head coach Ryan McGill, Wellsby skated in 35 games and didn’t necessarily see a ton of ice time in the games he did dress for.

Not the easiest way to start one’s Western Hockey League career.

“Coming into this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Wellsby said. “I’ve definitely found a groove coming in. I’d like to continue to produce like I have been.”

The point totals might not be earth shattering, but they provide strong evidence for the work Wellsby has done in developing his game since being provided with a clean slate courtesy the arrival of a new coaching staff.

“He came ready to work and compete right away,” Pierce said of Wellsby.

“It was strictly start from scratch and Austin took advantage of that. He knew he was going to get a fresh start and he found ways to pique our interest in the style of player he is.

“He’s very, very coachable. That’s the biggest thing. I’m probably just as critical on him as on anyone else, but it’s the way that he takes the criticism. He’s never pouty. He’s a very positive person and he understands when he needs to be better.”

For the time being, Wellsby will continue to skate alongside Philp and Zborosky, and that’s welcome news as far as the Ice captain is concerned.

“Wellsby’s been playing great,” Philp said Thursday. “He’s been using his body, getting in on the forecheck and opening up some space for me and ‘Z’ to do our thing.

“He’s got a lot more confidence in himself. He’s always had the ability to make plays and he’s starting to do that more and more.”

Philp, Zborosky and Wellsby will continue leading the offense Friday night when the Kootenay Ice host the Medicine Hat Tigers at Western Financial Place.

The Ice sit four points back of the Tigers in the WHL’s Central Division, so, while still early in the season, Friday night represents a big game for Pierce’s crew.

“Medicine Hat moves the puck real quick, they use the net really well. They kind of protect themselves that way,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to be doing our best to turn the game a little more choppy. Lots of starts and stops. Killing puck momentum.

“If we can find ways to stay in the offensive zone, it’s going to keep their offense away from us.”

Puck drop between the Ice and Tigers is slated for 7 p.m. Friday.

Notes: The Ice are hoping D Cale Fleury will be ready this weekend, whether that be Friday against Medicine Hat or Saturday when Kootenay travels to Lethbridge. Fleury has been out since the first week of October after sustaining an upper-body injury… The Junior A playings rights for Ice D Tyler King, who has yet to play this season while he recovers from off-season knee surgery, were dealt from the Melville Millionaires to the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Thursday afternoon…

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read