HUMBOLDT — Homegrown product Noah Barlage cannot wait for next season with the Humboldt Broncos.
The 18-year-old son of Carla and Michael Barlage only played six games for the Broncos last winter. The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season was put on pause in November and cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am really looking forward to playing games and getting back into a regular season next year,” said Barlage, a defenceman who was in his second season. “I have done a lot of training on and off the ice over the past 12 months to keep improving, but I just want to play hockey again.”
Broncos head coach Scott Barney said the team is excited to have Barlage not only because he is a hometown guy, but also because of his strong work ethic, ability, the belief he can be a leader for this team, and his potential.
“He is probably one of the hardest working kids we have here,” the head coach said. “Every day he’s always in the gym. He does extra. Always willing to get better. That’s the biggest thing for the younger guys is the willingness to get better. He’s constantly on the ice doing skill work. We really have high hopes for him in the coming season. He’s put a lot of time in and you know what, I think things are going to pay off for him.”
Barlage has been supported during his hockey career by his extended family and community.
“My family always supports me with my development, but I also get lots of support from my relatives,” he said. “At our games there are sometimes 25 people there, like grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and great uncles and aunts. They always talk to me about the Broncos when I see them.
“I have also gotten lots of support from all the teachers at [Humboldt Collegiate Institute] as they have helped me lots with organizing my schedule and getting my classes completed. I love playing for the Broncos and I just want to be part of a team playing in front of a full crowd during the playoffs. It’s the most awesome rink in the league when it's full.”
Last season Barlage was part of a team many expected to contend for an SJHL championship. The team posted a league-best 5-1-0-0 record and paced the SJHL in goals for (28) and goal differential (nine).
“Our team came back early in September and everyone worked hard to be prepared for the season to start,” Barlage said. “I like how we were all so focused on going all the way and we all really believed in each other. Everyone was also really dedicated following all the COVID rules and putting in lots of extra effort on and off the ice.”
Barlage was a key cog on the backend. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound blue liner recorded two assists, Barney praised him as a “hybrid defenceman.”
“He can move the puck and jump in the rush. He sees the game and reads the game really well,” the Broncos bench boss said. “He’s really good at getting pucks through to the net. We think his biggest attribute though is the way we can defend. If you watch the games, he rarely, rarely gets beat one-on-one … I believe his offensive game is going to come this year and he’s going to get a lot more opportunities to play to showcase that.”
After the SJHL season was paused, Barlage tried to stay game ready until he heard it was officially called off.
“Not getting to play was a major disappointment,” he said. “Since the season was cancelled, I have been skating four to five times a week and working out every day. I am taking a break for May and then going to get ready for next year.”
Barlage will be one of the leaders on a blue line group that only ages out one player – captain Doug Scott – from last season’s squad. Barlage and Scott were regularly paired together after the latter joined the team in a trade two seasons ago. Scott has earned a scholarship to NCAA Division I Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state.
“Playing with a good partner helps a lot in your game,” Barney said. “Obviously, Doug, playing with Noah, has helped him succeed at the next level. Hopefully, we find someone now to play with Noah that helps him get to the next level.”
Barlage is excited for his third season as a Bronco.
“What I am looking forward to the most is being able to play games and for our team to have another shot at the Centennial Cup,” he said. “We lose a lot of good players but still have lots of guys returning and it’s our turn to be the leaders and help the team win a championship.”