After finishing their midget AAA careers with the Tisdale Trojans, Wyatt Garagan and Rhett Handley are setting their sights on making the Estevan Bruins.
The 17-year-old local products played together with the Trojans of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this season.
Garagan scored 19 goals and 36 points in 40 games in his second season of midget AAA, finishing fifth in team scoring.
Handley, who made the jump from the midget AA Bruins this year, posted 12 goals and 17 points in 44 games.
Handley was also named the team’s scholastic player of the year.
He said it took a while to adjust to the midget AAA level after playing his first two years of midget in Estevan.
“It was kind of a big change in the speed and the strength, but other than that I thought I fit in pretty well,” he said.
Handley said he was used mainly as a penalty killer and role player in Tisdale.
“Mostly I was kind of an energy guy out there, and lots of penalty killing. We focused a lot on defensive play and smarts, and the forechecking and all the technical stuff.”
He said one of the highlights of his season was when the Trojans had a packed house for Faith Night and he rose to the occasion.
“We had Matt Dominguez come out and the rink was packed, huge game. I scored a goal on the first shift, so it was great. It was a lot of fun.”
Garagan, meanwhile, doubled his point total from his previous year with the Trojans and was a key part of the team’s high-octane forward corps.
“I had a scoring touch there for a little while,” said Garagan. “I would have liked to put up a little more near the end of the season, but I think I did my part for this year and a lot of other guys did too. A lot of guys showed some heart this year and came out of nowhere and put up some points.”
Garagan said one of the biggest benefits of midget AAA, for him, was learning to add a gritty side to his game on top of his scoring ability.
“I’ve noticed it’s a physical league, big-time. (Tisdale head coach) Trevor Blevins taught me so much these past two years to be that physical guy and go out there and be the best you can.”
Both players said it helped to have a friend from home on the team, especially for Handley, playing away from home for the first time.
“Having somebody you know from the start really helps you out. We were in the same homeroom at school, so we know each other. That definitely helped out a lot for the first little bit,” said Handley.
“It was awesome,” Garagan added. “He lived right across the street, so we saw each other every day. It was good to have somebody from home to talk to.”
The focus for both players now turns to trying out for the Bruins next season.
Garagan and Handley each played one game for the team this year as a call-up.
Garagan was one of the last cuts last season and may have made the team if not for a talented group of 18-year-old forwards.
He is confident about making the team, but doesn’t want to take it for granted.
“I’m going to go into camp and not go in with a cocky attitude or anything, but I’m going to do what I can to make the team for the upcoming year. If I make the team, I’m looking forward to being a Bruin,” Garagan said.
Handley said he was encouraged by the game he played in this year and is willing to play any role to make the squad.
“I think I had a good game when I played with them, so hopefully I can crack a spot even if I’m not playing every game.”