Colts Blandisi, Laser and Hooey wrap up junior careers
Article courtesy of www.thebarrieexaminer.com
Written By Stephen Sweet
The season came to an end for the Barrie Colts the way it had a year before.
And that means it’s time to move on for some veterans.
Barrie lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals, falling once again to the North Bay Battalion in five games.
“If we don’t keep getting (behind) the 8-ball and falling behind early, we definitely would have won more games in this series,” said Colts captain Joseph Blandisi. “If we’d have started earlier (in Game 4 or Game 5), we could have won both of those games.”
Despite a high-powered offence, featuring three 100-point players for the first time in franchise history, Barrie couldn’t get enough scoring against the stingy Battalion.
“We never feel like we’re out of games,” said Colts defenceman Jonathan Laser. “It’s been unbelievable this year. We just came up short (on Saturday), but the guys have been awesome all year and that’s been one of our strong points.”
Every game in the second round was decided by two goals or less, but Barrie came out on the wrong end four out of five times.
“(There were) close games and they just found a way and we didn’t,” said Colts centre Garrett Hooey. “Credit to North Bay, they’re a pretty good team, but it just sucks right now.”
That general feeling was echoed amongst all three overagers, whose OHL careers officially came to an end on Saturday night.
“It’s emotional,” Blandisi said. “My junior days are over, the fun days are over, and life’s a business now.
“It’s part of growing up and the four years went by so fast.”
That wasn’t something that crossed most of their minds until they reached their final post-season.
“Your time flies by here,” Laser said. “You hear all of the older guys say it as they move on, but you don’t really realize it you’re done.
“It seems like just yesterday that I was playing my first game.”
Laser was the longest-serving member of Colts, making his debut on Sept. 22, 2011.
He was paired up with Brandon Devlin that night, but would go on to be a top-unit shutdown defenceman, playing alongside Aaron Ekblad, Jake Dotchin and, most recently, Ben Harpur, going against the best players the opponents could send over the boards.
Laser said he will miss the camaraderie of his teammates from his four years in Barrie.
“For me, it was the guys on the team,” Laser said. “They made my career here unforgettable. They were amazing the whole time and I made so many friends that will last a lifetime.”
Hooey may have only spent a year and a half in Barrie, but it didn’t take long for the team to rub off on him.
“I wish I spent five years here,” Hooey said. “Not taking anything away from Belleville or Sarnia, but it was such a great group of guys here.
“Being able to have Dale (Hawerchuk), (Mike) Rosati and (Todd Miller) as coaches was just unbelievable,” added Hooey, who was acquired from Belleville last year in exchange for Alex Yuill. “They work with you, help you out in the littlest ways, not only in hockey, but Dale taught us a few life lessons as well, which was good, too.”
Hooey was a second-round pick of the Sarnia Sting in 2010 and quickly developed a reputation as a great faceoff man who would do anything to win, including playing hurt.
“I guess it just could be my drive for the game, I don’t know,” said Hooey, whose father, Todd, was a draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 1981. “I just love playing hockey and I don’t ever want it to end. Just play through anything unless you can’t walk is how I’ve been raised.”
That kind of attitude saw Hooey miss just a single game over his past four years in the OHL, and his 333 games played total is tied for third in league history.
Given Hooey’s heart-and-soul nature, it was no surprise that he was crushed after the Game 5 defeat.
“It just sucks knowing you’re not coming to the rink and seeing your team anymore,” Hooey said with tears in his eyes. “It’ll hit hard. I’d pay $50 a week to do it all over again.”
While Laser and Hooey aren’t yet sure where they will go next in their hockey careers, Blandisi’s next stop will be the New Jersey Devils rookie camp.
The mid-season acquisition a year ago was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, but the team didn’t sign Blandisi after he missed the final month of the regular season and all of the 2014 playoffs with an illness.
Blandisi set a number of goals for himself this year, including getting signed by an NHL team, scoring 50 goals, getting 100 points and winning an OHL championship.
Right now, it’s the one he didn’t accomplish that lingers in his mind.
“Obviously, right now it’s pretty tough,” Blandisi said. “I put it on myself to carry this team through the playoffs, so it’s a little disappointing for me. I had lots of positives this year, but to end off on a negative, it’s going to take some time for sure.”
Blandisi now sits second in Colts franchise history for goals and points in a season, at 52 and 112, respectively.
He recognizes and appreciates the chances he got in Barrie.
“The opportunity Dale gave me and the confidence he put in me was amazing,” Blandisi said. “He gave me all of the opportunities I could ask for, gave me a ‘C’ on my jersey, and I had some great guys that I couldn’t have made my accomplishments without.”
Blandisi will try and carry that forward as he enters his pro career.
“I don’t want to leave the OHL, but I’m definitely excited for a new opportunity,” Blandisi said. “I’m going to start at the bottom again and hopefully work my way to the top.
“Next year is a new chapter for me and I’m excited to start it, but at the same time, I’m going to miss this.”