Submitted by Emanuel Squeira, KIJHL Communications
Leadership among the Grand Forks Border Bruins is strong. It starts with captain Liam Stalwick and is supported by Nathan Cohen-Wallis.
Cohen-Wallis, a product of Canmore, Alta., lets his play do the majority of his talking. However, a nudge by coach John Clewlow has him working on being more vocal in the dressing room.
“It has been a process for sure. Definitely had some good role models in past years,” said Cohen-Wallis, a leader without wearing a letter.
The third-year Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) forward says it is strange being an older player in the league. Learning from previous leaders on the team, Cohen-Wallis is incorporating those pieces into his day-to-day action at Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. He tries to lead the way as those before him did.
Having that responsibility means everything to the Border Bruins leading scorer. Players look up to him and ask questions, which, initially, he wasn’t expecting.
“It’s funny, the things that guys ask you about. Game day prep and stuff like that,” said Cohen-Wallis, who likes that feeling and joked about puffing his chest out.
While a quiet leader, Cohen-Wallis’s play is something teammates follow, Clewlow said.
“His work ethic and the way he battles on the ice, that is the kind of leader he is,” Clewlow said. “I think it is working for him.”
Out with an injury right now, Cohen-Wallis has 11 goals and 24 points in 14 games. He credits his off-season training with a drive to return stronger from an injury he had sustained last season, to early season success. He skated with a solid group of players and placed a focus on meditation. He also worked on being more explosive in his first couple steps, which has boosted his two-way play.
“I have been getting a lot of rebounds in front. It just seems that I have been able to get that half-step on defenders,” he explained.
“They can produce points, but they can also play defence,” Clewlow said of Cohen-Wallis and Stalwick.
On his captain, Cohen-Wallis says that Stalwick has an intensity, but there is another side to him too.
“He is also really good at just keeping it loose and goofy when things are not going so well,” he said. “Instead of frustrations boiling over here. It really helps that edge off and keep it loose which is really nice through the grind of the season.”
That said, Clewlow said Stalwick’s comfortable enough to be the talker in the dressing room too. Down 4-1 heading into the third period against the Chase Heat on Nov. 1, the coach followed his players off the ice.
“I came in expecting to do another chat,” Clewlow said, “but as I got into the room, Liam was already up talking to the players.” “That was my cue to leave and let him take control of the dressing room. That’s the stuff that makes my job easier, is having leaders like that, that can take control of the room. Get the guys pumped up without me having to do the same thing.”
Stalwick, listed at six-foot-three, 212 pounds, has always played physical.
“If you want to finish the game with the puck on your stick, it opens up more space for you … and it helps open space for your smaller teammates,” Stalwick said.
Though captain this year in Grand Forks, the Alberta player finished last season in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) in Ontario.
“It was a good experience to see a different type of hockey and coaching,” the captain said of playing in the older, tougher league. “I learned a lot and I stepped up the pace in the playoffs.”
Now back out west, closer to family, he said he’s settling in well.
“I just love Grand Forks,” Stalwick said. “It’s like a second home for me.”
Though new to town, his teammates recognized his leadership at pre-season camp and voted for him to don the “C” on his sweater.
“It’s nice to see that the guys thought I was a leader throughout camp, into the start of the season,” says Stalwick, who wants to push for a championship and get a banner in Jack Goddard Memorial Arena.
Nevertheless, Stalwick said of the responsibility, “I just try and play the same way everyday, come to the rink and just try to be the hardest worker on the ice. Be a good role model off the ice for all the boys and around the community.”