CARROT RIVER — Luc Marleau started this hockey season playing forward but earned all-star accolades for the Carrot River Outback Thunder as a defenceman.
The Tisdale product was a forward for most of his hockey career – including for his hometown midget AAA Trojans and at the start of this season for 17 games for the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. After joining the Junior B Outback Thunder, Marleau has excelled on the backend and was selected to the Prairie Junior Hockey League All-Star Game as a defenceman.
“I played a little defence in bantam and I loved it,” Marleau said. “It has always been something I have wanted to do and luckily the Thunder were nice enough to take me in and develop me in a new position.”
Last Saturday, Marleau had a goal and an assist to help the Outback Thunder earn a 5-4 victory over the Saskatoon Quakers, who lead the PJHL’s Bob Dybvig Division. Liam Hallett led Carrot River with three points.
“It was definitely what I think is the win of the year for us,” Outback Thunder general manager Brennan Hall said. “Taking them down and the [Delisle] Chiefs [in January] just shows how competitive this league is and how competitive our team is. Coming into this year people had low expectations for us and counted us out from the start, but we will be making the playoffs and to take down the top two teams over the last couple of weeks here just shows everyone that we aren’t to be taken lightly.”
The Outback Thunder fell 3-2 on the road Sunday in a tight game with the Prince Albert Titans. On the season, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Marleau has 12 goals and 22 points in 20 games. Although Marleau has only been with the Outback Thunder since mid-November, he is tied for second on the team in goals and is sixth in points.
“He’s got a quick release and the ability to uncork some accurate shots from the point, combine that with his end-to-end speed and we’ve got a real offensive threat out there,” Carrot River head coach Luke Folk said.
As a defenceman, Marleau enjoys being able to see the whole ice.
“I can quarterback the play and dictate what happens as we break out of our zone,” he said. “I want to be in the offensive zone as much as possible, and I believe that is the forward in me, but by playing defence I am able to use my knowledge as a forward to move the puck up ice and out of our own zone. And even though I love to play in the offensive zone, my favourite thing to do is to eliminate the scoring chances for the other team. I want to stop goals from going in, and that’s what I love about being a defenceman.”
Marleau has had an impact on the Outback Thunder not only with his skill, but also with his leadership, enthusiasm, and personality. At the team’s three weekly practices, Marleau can be heard “whooping and hollering” trying to get his teammates going, Folk said.
“Luc brings a good energy and it’s infectious,” the head coach said. “Next thing you know, we’ve got 20 guys flying around with ear-to-ear grins screaming at each other ... perfect practice atmosphere.
“From the first time he joined us for practice, he's been keeping the boys upbeat and focused. He’s a leader for us. Luc has a high hockey IQ and the guys respect his voice in the room.”
On Jan. 4, Marleau and teammate David Wiens, who leads the team with 34 points and 18 goals, played in the inaugural PJHL All-Star Game. It was hosted by Fort Knox and held in Fort Qu’Appelle.
“What I liked about playing in the All-Star Game was how fast paced and skilled the game was,” Marleau said. “It was fun to meet guys from around the league and even play with them in the same game. I enjoyed it because it was all about fun. You want to win, but it’s a bit more laid back than a regular game. And luckily, I was able to have David Wiens join me and showcase the talent that the Thunder have. It was a great day and definitely was something I will remember.”
Marleau has also enjoyed playing for the Outback Thunder. He has been impressed with the compete level everyone has.
“We all want to win and play as long as we can,” Marleau said. “Everyone has the same goal in mind and we all push each other to do better. It’s great to have a team that has the same goal in mind. The group of guys we have this year is amazing. When I came from the Mustangs, I felt a part of the team from the start. Everyone made me feel welcome, allowing for the transition to be very easy.”
The Thunder last week
Saturday, Feb. 1 in Carrot River
Carrot River 5, Saskatoon Quakers 4
Outback Thunder Scorers: Tanner Dutcawich, Kayden Graham, Brandt Fiske, Luc Marleau, Liam Hallett
Quakers Scorers: Kyle Gray, Cole Young, Dodge Long, Hunter Schnell
Goalies: Steven Soyko, Carrot River, 44 saves on 48 shots; Steven Duchscher, Saskatoon, 6 on 7; Parker Sturby, Saskatoon, 17 on 21
Notes: The Outback Thunder got out to a strong start against the Prairie Junior Hockey League Bib Dybvig-leading Quakers. They led 2-0 at the first intermission and 5-3 at the second. “Against the Quakers, we came out strong and hungry,” Carrot River general manager Brennan Hall said. “We were hitting them hard, which they didn’t like, and getting on the board first was crucial for us. It gave us the momentum to continue to score and play well. Soyko stood tall between the pipes and made some key saves for us to keep us in it and continue to give us the energy we needed to close it out.” Hallett led Carrot River with three points. It was only the Quakers’ fourth regulation loss of the season.
Sunday, Feb. 2 in Prince Albert
Prince Albert 3, Carrot River 2
Carrot River Scorers: Brandt Fiske, Chase Gallant
Titans Scorers: Ashton Morin (2), Ben Zultok
Goalies: Chance Griffith, Carrot River, 34 saves on 37 shots; Travis Dryka, Regina, 46 on 48
Notes: Fiske gave Carrot River a 1-0 first period lead. In the second period, the Titans tied the game on a power play, but Gallant answered to put Carrot River up 2-1. Morin scored twice in the third to power the Titans to the win.
The Carrot River Outback Thunder (15-21-0-1) hosts the Delisle Chiefs (24-9-0-1) on Saturday. On Sunday, the Outback Thunder are in Prince Albert to take on the Titans (12-21-0-4).