Sawchenko enjoys POE camp

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Katie Brickman
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Warriors goaltender ready and focused for new season

Zach Sawchenko has devoted a lot of time in to developing his game in the crease.

Moose Jaw Warriors goaltender Zach Sawchenko dons the Hockey Hall of Fame Chris Chelios jersey during warm ups prior to their Western Hockey League game earlier this season. Sawchenko recently participated in the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence goaltending camp.Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

That work has begun to pay off for the Moose Jaw Warriors goaltender, as he is now considered to be one of the top goalies in the country by Hockey Canada.

The 16-year-old Calgary, Alta. native spent four days on the ice in Calgary last week working with instructors at the Program of Excellence camp.

“It was a great experience. There was great coaches out there and I was real honoured to be there,” said Sawchenko. “It was a real honour to be considered one of the top goalies in Canada.”

Sawchenko was among 34 goaltenders announced by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League to be selected for the camp.

There were three age categories, including those candidates in the under-20 division, eight, including Sawchenko, in the under-18 division, and 16 in the under-17 division.

“We were on the ice with the under-20 World Junior guys,” said Sawchenko. “That is where you look up their game and try to put it into yours because you have the advantage of having the same ice. I was watching them in net.”

Among those on the ice that Sawchenko was able to share the ice was with Memorial Cup and World Junior champion, Zach Fucale.

“Being on the same ice as Eric Comrie and Zach Fucale … I really learned a lot this week and hopefully I can put that in my game to make it better,” he said. “I just tried to soak everything in. Zach was real nice and came up to me and introduced himself. He was a great guy and real funny. He is an extraordinary goalie. He is unreal. He has won a Memorial Cup and the World Juniors  — that is the goal. It was a great experience to learn from him.”

Sawchenko wasn’t the only Warriors goaltender taking part in the camp. Brody Willms took part in the under-17 division. It was a special experience for the two teammates.

“It was pretty cool with how it turned out with me and Willms,” said Sawchenko. “Kudos to him, he is a great goalie and I know he had a good camp … good for him.”

Sawchenko wrapped up his rookie season with the Warriors, which was up and down, as he battled an injury in the second half. He is now focused on getting back to the Warriors for his second full season with the club.

“It was a great experience, but I am real excited about coming back to Moose Jaw in the fall and heading back,” he said. “I know we owe Moose Jaw fans better. We have to make the playoffs this year and that is the goal that we want to accomplish this year.”

Although he did have a great experience at the camp and it was nice to be back on the ice, Sawchenko said he would have rather have been competing for the Memorial Cup.

“It was a bittersweet feeling. I would have loved being back in Moose Jaw at the end of May winning a Memorial Cup,” he said. “It was nice to get back on the skates, though.”

Throughout the four-day camp, the goaltenders worked on and off the ice on all aspects of their game in morning and afternoon sessions.

“Hockey Canada did a great job approaching all aspects of our game, like mental and physical. They had special guys coming in to talk about the mental game and the mental training and the little things that are huge for us,” explained Sawchenko. “We did three drills that we just rotated through those stations. Every drill focused on something different, whether it was back-door plays, reading the play, staying on your feet. I had a blast this weekend.”

Having been selected and put into the top echelon of goaltender in the country was a satisfying goal to reach for Sawchenko.

“It is a confidence boost, for sure,” he said. “I also think that it is hard work paying off. I have put in a lot of work and I am just happy that it is starting to pay off here.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

Organizations: World Juniors, Canadian Hockey League

Geographic location: Calgary, Alta, Canada, Moose Jaw

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