Hitmen counting on 'selfless' Kornelsen
By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald
March 27, 2012
You won't always find Joe Kornelsen's contributions on the scoresheet.
But head coach Mike Williamson can assure you the 19-year-old Abbotsford, B.C., product is a vital piece of the Calgary Hitmen lineup as an energy forward, two-way player, faceoff man and penalty-kill specialist.
And even more so during the Western Hockey League post-season.
"It's extremely important," Williamson said via cellphone, after his club practised at Winnipeg's MTS Centre on Monday afternoon. "Everybody steps up. In playoffs, there's always players that play an expanded role and those situations become more and more important.
"Joey is a selfless player. It's always team-first with him."
An acquisition from the Moose Jaw Warriors early in the season, Kornelsen put up nine goals and 12 assists in 51 games.
A headline-grabber, the sixfootone, 190-pound centreman is not. But he certainly is a workhorse.
In the WHL, individual faceoff and penalty-kill stats are not mandatory, but Williamson said Kornelsen battles through a ton of successful draws and is a key part of the penalty-kill unit.
"That's what we need," Williamson said. "He's someone that can contribute offensively and we rely on to play in a lot of defensive situations like the PK. He's excited to go out and help kill penalties. He works extremely hard and definitely adds to our depth.
"It's not always a glamorous role, but it's certainly important for a hockey team to be successful."
Kornelsen was especially useful Sunday as the Hitmen gave five power-play opportunities to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Flames pick Michael Ferland scored while Brady Brassart was off for tripping, which proved to be the game winner in a 4-1 Wheaties victory that put them ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven first-round series.
"We have to be disciplined and stay out of the box because they can capitalize on the power play with all their good players," said Kornelsen. "We did a good job of that Friday night. (Taking penalties) disrupts the flow of the game. We might have the momentum at one point, but then you get stuck on the penalty kill and lose it."
Which is exactly where Kornelsen fits in the picture.
"I just try to block as many shots as I can and get the puck down the ice," he said. "Everyone has their own roles, I guess. My role is to be good defensively and win my battles. Hopefully, I can do that in playoffs."
After three chippy, emotional games, both teams have had seven power-play opportunities. While Calgary has scored twice, Brandon, which was the third most effective in the WHL regular season, has only one - Ferland's marker.
"The key to the first two games was staying out of the box," said Williamson. "We were only short-handed a couple times. (Sunday) night, we were in there five times and they got the one big goal.
"Their power play is very dangerous. If we're short-handed or in the penalty box too much, eventually it's going to hurt us."
ICE CHIPS: Game 5 goes Thursday in Winnipeg and, if necessary, the series returns to Calgary for Games 6 and 7 on April 1 (4 p.m.) and April 3 (7 p.m.) . . . Vancouver's Jordan Martinook was dubbed the WHL player of the week Monday after picking up three goals and five assists as the Giants jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Spokane Chiefs . . . Calgary Flames draft pick Laurent Brossoit was the WHL nominee for CHL's goalie of the week. The 19-year-old Edmonton Oil King posted a 2-0 record against the Kootenay Ice, stopping 51 of 54 shots for a 1.50 goals-against average and a 0.944 save percentage.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER/KRISTENODLANDCH
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald