Local player headed to AHL's Stars after WHL comes to a close
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Brock Montgomery skates off the ice after helping out with Timbits hockey during the intermission of his final game in Moose Jaw on Jan. 25. His father Rod, left, and brothers Rylan, middle, and Blake also took part.
All Brock Montgomery has ever needed was a chance to prove himself.
The Moose Jaw hockey player wasn’t selected in the Western Hockey League bantam draft, nor in the National Hockey League draft.
He won the 2011 WHL title and played in the Memorial Cup as part of a four-year career with the Kootenay Ice. The day his junior career ended Montgomery signed his first pro contract — inking a deal with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. Montgomery’s contract covers the rest of this season and next season with the Dallas Stars’ affiliate.
“It’s sad that our season ended, but it’s a nice little pick up to know you’re moving on. One door closes and another door opens,” said Montgomery from Cranbrook, B.C. He will fly down Wednesday to join Texas.
In the summer the Stars had invited him to take part in the annual Traverse City rookie tournament. The NHL lockout quashed that hope.
“Obviously I had talked to Dallas all of last year and I was supposed to go down to Traverse City,” said the 6-3, 205-pound right winger. “They said if I had a good season they would hopefully bring me down at the end of the season. I didn’t really hear anything from them until there was about a week left in the season and they told me they had a contract for me.”
It has been an eventful 20-year-old season full of highs and lows for Montgomery. After the disappointment of not attending his first NHL camp, the Ice proceeded to get off to a horrible first half of the season.
“We had a really young team and we had a lot of guys who were in their first season in the league. I think they were a little homesick,” said Montgomery. “Everyone came back after Christmas and we really started to gel as a team. Everyone got more settled in and you could tell that the younger guys started to play a lot better.”
The Ice were in the Eastern Conference cellar at the Christmas break and were nine points behind even the second-worst team in the conference.
Yet they were a remarkable 20-5-1-0 in January and February. All told they posted a 25-12-1-0 record in the second half to finish at .500 and earn the final playoff spot in the conference.
“Our team did something pretty remarkable I think. We went on a pretty huge tear just to climb back into playoff contention,” said Montgomery. “Everyone counted us out at Christmas. They said there was no way we could make the playoffs and we would need a miracle to come back.”
They lost in five games to the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the playoffs. Montgomery had a goal and two assists in the post-season.
“It’s pretty great that we came back, but it would have been nice if we had finished sixth or seventh,” said Montgomery after the ice lost six of their last nine games to set up a tough outing against Edmonton. “We didn’t have the last 12 games we were hoping for.
“Looking forward for the team — because it is such a young team — that’s huge for them. They’re going to be a team that’s going to want to contend next year and having that playoff experience is going to help them a lot.”
Montgomery set career highs with 31 goals and 48 points in 58 gams this season. He also had a career low 76 penalty minutes. He credited playing with Luke Philp and Levi Cable for helping his offensive production.
“I just had to find some open space and those guys found me the puck,” said Montgomery.
He missed some time with post-concussion symptoms and sat out of the final few regular season games to rest a nagging groin injury, but Montgomery said he’s healthy and ready for his next challenge.
The Stars also signed Kootenay’s Matt Fraser after his 20-year-old season in the WHL in 2011. Fraser scored his first NHL goal earlier this season and has 37 goals in 73 games in the AHL with Texas. Another former Ice player, Cody Eakin, is with the Dallas Stars.
“There’s a couple of Kootenay players down there and I’ve talked to those guys,” said Montgomery. “I’m really excited for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to the first practice and getting used to the speed — I hear it’s a lot faster and things happen a lot faster than they do up here, so that will be the big adjustment.”
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Former Warriors captain Kendall McFaull made his AHL debut over the weekend. The 20-year-old picked up an assist and four minutes in penalties in his pro debut — a 3-2 win by the Oklahoma City Barons over Peoria.