Paul Jowett, in less than a year, went from being a depth forward on the St. Albert Saints hockey club to their top defenceman during the 1998-99 season.
Despite the extraordinary achievements made by Jowett during that short time frame, he has even higher expectations for himself as the 1999-2000 season moves into full force.
“I want to be a leader here. I want to make sure the team has a good year,” Jowett stated prior to the start of the year.
Back in 1997-98, Jowett’s outlook as a member of the St. Albert Saints hockey club was much different as his main goal was simply to make the club. Going into the season he had played for a short period in the SJHL and was a product of the St. Albert Minor Hockey system – having played for the St. Albert AAA Midget Elite Raiders.
Jowett played the majority of that season as a forward and did not make it past the January 10th AJHL roster freeze. He played 23 games, had two goals and seven assists for nine points as well as 40 penalty minutes during the Saints’ last championship season.
“It was a tough decision to make,” Saints General Manager Marcel Viveiros said about cutting Jowett.
He was back with the club to start the 1998-99 season, however, and made a huge impact upon arrival. While spotted on defence the year before, Jowett converted to the position full time and it was an remarkably successful transition.
Jowett, who was a key cog on the St. Albert Saints during their run to the AJHL finals, felt the switch was not only beneficial but also a very enjoyable experience for him. “It was a lot of fun last season. When you want to play, you play good.”
In 52 games, Jowett had three goals and 12 assists for 15 points and 75 penalty minutes but the numbers do not tell the whole story. Jowett was an invaluable asset to the club on the ice. At 6’3″ 190 pounds he is without a doubt one of the biggest and most physical defencemen in the league.
He followed up a successful regular season with an even better playoff as he was required to play an enormous amount of ice time. Key defencemen on the club Scott Farrell (separated shoulder) and Mark Jackson (bruised kidney) were limited in how much they were able to play in the playoffs due to injury. That meant the club had to look towards Jowett, among others, to step up his play – and that he did. Behind his solid play, the Saints rallied from being down 3-0 in their North Division final series with Lloydminster to become only the third team in AJHL history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games.
For his efforts he shared the club’s Most Improved Player award with fellow defenceman Nathan Kerbes and won honours for being the Top Defenceman.
The Saints boasted a number of talented defencemen last season who moved on to greener pastures, including Jackson (University of Wisconsin) and Farrell (University of Alaska-Fairbanks). Andrew Gibson and Chris Lane, both also fixtures on the blueline, also moved on having been in their 20th year, leaving Jowett and Kerbes to help break in the newcomers this past training camp. At the start of the season, only Jowett and forward Jeebo Manah were entering their final year of junior eligibility.
As the 1999-2000 season stands in its infancy, Jowett has begun to assume a leadership role on the club. “Right now we’re coming to the games really nervous and we just need to relax and everyone needs to play how they’re capable.” His words resemble those of a seasoned veteran and not of a player one year removed from his first year as a defenceman in the AJHL.
He has also assumed a bigger role offensively. Jowett already has almost half as many points as he did through all of last season, with two goals, five assists and seven points in only nine games. He is also tied for third on the club with 36 penalty minutes.
Despite a slow start, this year’s edition of the St. Albert Saints should be optimistic says Jowett. “It’s pretty promising. The first part of the year we’ll just have to see with the guys that we have who can step up and come through for us. The veterans that are back are going to have to, obviously, lead the team but we also need everyone else to be equal here. We’ve got new guys so everyone is going to have to do their part if we’re going to be successful.”
The St. Albert Saints can be certain that Paul Jowett will do his part as he continues to lead this franchise into the new millennium.