CARROT RIVER — Justice Haack was quite surprised when Carrot River Outback Thunder associate coach Kolton Holmen contacted him.
Holmen had suited up in net for the parts of the past seven seasons for the Junior B team and was now looking for the squad’s next goaltender. Outback Thunder general manager Brennan Hall said that while doing online scouting Holmen came across Haack, a Colbert, Wash. product, and watched a YouTube video of him. Holmen reached out.
“I had never head of the Prairie Junior Hockey League until the Thunder started talking to me …. I was excited for the Junior B experience and advancing my hockey career. Also, with the new coaching staff, I was excited to be a part of what I hope is a turning point for the Thunder franchise,” Haack said.
The Outback Thunder are certainly pleased to have him.
“Since day one, he has been a positive kid with a smile on his face,” said Outback Thunder head coach Luke Folk, who took over partway through last season. “He made a big commitment to the Thunder and came a long way to be here. We couldn’t be happier.”
Haack, a 6-foot, 185-pound, 18-year-old, is one of several rookies trying to help the Outback Thunder succeed. On a young team, he has played in four games and recorded a 5.82 goals against average. “I’m loving playing with the boys,” said Haack, who said he feels “like the team really meshes together.”
A key focus of the Outback Thunder program is developing talent. Haack has certainly bought into that.
“Haack is often the first one at the rink and last to leave,” Folk said. “I can always find him preparing in the stands and hallways hours before a game … visualizing, handwork, footwork and everything in between.
“Between endless games of rebound with the boys after practice to taking in every extra opportunity to suit up and hit the ice to work on basic skills ... it’s obvious the kid wants to get better. He pushes himself every practice to perform and it rubs off on the rest.”
Haack grew up in a community outside of Spokane, Wash. Last season he attended the Coeur d'Alene Hockey Academy in Idaho. The CDA Academy was the lone American school playing in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
The Thunder Last Week
Saturday, Oct. 19 in Carrot River
Regina Silver Foxes 3, Carrot River 2 OT
Outback Thunder scorers: Tyrell Nicklen, Tanner Dutcawich
Silver Foxes Scorers: Matthew Tress, Rhett Gherasim, Jordan Volke
Goalies: Justice Haack, Carrot River, 29 saves on 32 shots; Bradley Sentes, Regina, 35 on 37
Notes: The overtime loss gave the Outback Thunder their first standings point of the season. General manager Brennan Hall said that the Outback Thunder played well, and he felt they dominated the play the majority of the game. “The Foxes got lucky a few times and were able to capitalize on some weird bounces,” Hall said. “Our guys need to do a better job at creating chances from the middle of the ice. We stick to the outside and put on way too many perimeter shots. It was a true heartbreaker of a game. … a bad break and bounce costed us a game in the extra frame.” The Outback Thunder twice came back from one goal down to tie the game. Dutcawich’s goal on a powerplay with two seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime. Volke score the game winner. Ben Couvier had two assists for the Outback Thunder.
The Carrot River Outback Thunder (0-7-1) wrap up a five-game homestand this weekend. The team hosts the Saskatoon Quakers (7-2-0, as of Sunday) on Saturday and the Prince Albert Titans (0-6-2) on Sunday.
The Carrot River Outback Thunder have been busy making roster tweaks.
The team added goalie Steven Soyko from the Prince Albert Titans for future considerations. The 19-year-old Prince Albert product had played in three games for his hometown team this season.
“We’re happy to have him,” Outback Thunder general manager Brennan Hall said. “As a veteran goaltender, he will be looked upon for some big moments and to help mentor the rookie Justice Haack.”
This month the Outback Thunder made two deals involving forward Talon Thomas. They acquired him from the Saskatoon Quakers for defenceman Jaden Mayer on Oct. 11. In three games with the Carrot River squad, Thomas had two goals and three points. Due to family matters, Thomas asked to play closer to his hometown of Duck Lake. On Oct. 15, the Outback Thunder swapped Thomas to the Titans for Kolby Heidt. The 19-year-old forward from North Battleford had four points in 32 games with Delisle last season.
Netminder Ross Jones was given an opportunity to play in the USHL-Premier Hockey League. He opted to take it, so the Outback Thunder were on the lookout for another netminder. While working on the Thomas trade, Hall noticed that the Titans had three goaltenders and inquired if one would be available. Soyko decided to take advantage of his chance with Carrot River.
The Outback Thunder have also signed Martensville forward Trent Keewatin. He has some Junior B experience with Frog Lake from last season.