Colliton intent on righting Raiders’ ship

By Aaron Vickers

Dejected.

That was the look on the face of Prince Albert Raiders forward Jeremy Colliton, as he emerged from
the visiting team’s dressing room after losing 6-0 to the Calgary
Hitmen. It’s a look that hasn’t been uncommon for Raider players visiting the Saddledome for nearly a decade. In fact, with the loss just two nights ago, the Calgary Hitmen were able to increase their undefeated streak at home against their Saskatchewan counterparts to an impressive 29 games.

“I think that, obviously, we had a tough start, and I think we feel that we should be better then what we are,” explained Colliton, talking in reference to not only the game against
the Hitmen, but the Prince Albert Raider season in general.

Predicted by many to challenge for East Division, the Raiders have come
flat out of the gate, posting a 6-14-2-1 record through their first 23
games, placing them fourth in their division, ahead of only the lowly
Moose Jaw Warriors, who have won but one game this season. The
Raiders struggle isn’t for a lack of talent.


In addition to Colliton and Kyle Chipchura, the club boasts Dane Byers, a second round selection
from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft of the New York Rangers. Byers,
unfortunately, has struggled in particular, with only a paltry two
points in 21 games for the club this season. The same can be
said for Aki Seitsonen,
selected in the same draft by the Calgary Flames. Seitsonen, through 23
games, finds himself the club’s third leading scorer, but barely
averages a point every other game, with 12 thus far. Even
between the pipes, the usually superb Rejean
Beauchemin
, who had a 2.32 goals against average and 30 wins
last season, has struggled, with only six wins and a goals against
average up over half a goal a game from the 2003-04 season.

So what does Colliton, captain of the Raiders, attribute the struggles
to?

“A lot of it has to do with the older guys, we haven’t played well enough,” claimed the Blackie, Alberta native. “I
think on any team, if you’re going to have success, you need to have your older guys playing well every night and
we haven’t had that.”

In fact, aside from Chipchura, who has 22 points, and
Colliton, with his 21 points, the remaining Raider players
have been woeful in the offensive end. While the duo of Chipchura and
Colliton have combined for 43 points, the remaining 19 skaters for
Prince Albert have combined for just 83 points. The Montreal Canadiens and New York
Islanders prospects have accounted for over a third of the team’s total offense, including 18 of 45 goals (40 percent), but it certainly doesn’t have the 58th overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft feeling as
though the team is skating as one.

Being the leader, however, has taken it upon himself to try to right
the ship.

“It’s my responsibility, being the captain,” Colliton stated. “If
guys aren’t willing to play the way we have to, myself and our
leadership group have to drag guys along, and we haven’t done that so far. It doesn’t mean that the responsibility still isn’t ours.”

And while Colliton hasn’t been able to turn around his team yet, his
start to the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season has many impressed.
So impressed, in fact, that Colliton, along with teammates Beauchemin
and Chipchura, have earned themselves a roster spot for the upcoming
CHL/Russia Challenge. While the nomination was welcomed by Colliton, he
seemed more eager for the opportunity to showcase himself
for Team Canada Head Coach Brent Sutter would once again present
itself.

“It’s an honor, a great opportunity for me to play for Team WHL,” exclaimed the 6’2, 205lb center, finally cracking a smile. “Obviously it’s a big deal, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a stepping stone towards the World Juniors and again, it’s a good chance for me, Kyle (Chipchura) and Rich (Rejean Beauchemin). It’s another chance to play.”

Certainly Sutter has seen his fair share of Colliton, especially over
the course of the summer, as he was one of 25 players from the
Western Hockey League took part in the Canadian Junior Summer
Development Camp held in Calgary in August. While Colliton stressed
that the summer camp was important, it was no more important than any
other stretch of hockey he’s played in the last three months.

“It’s another chance to play in front of the coach, and have him evaluate guys,” described Colliton. “It’s important
but I think every game this season is important, the selection camp is important, and the summer camp was important, so I don’t think I’ll put too much pressure on myself.”

Colliton shouldn’t feel the pressures of playing in front of the coach,
either. As one of many potential returning forwards, Colliton’s
experiences in the 2004 World Junior Championships certainly gives him
an edge over his peers. At last year’s championship, Colliton dressed
for all six games, and although he didn’t tally any points, still
played an important role in a checking situation. It wasn’t the
statistics that remained in Colliton’s mind, though, but the
disappointment of losing to Team USA in a heartbreaking gold medal
game.

“It’s a big deal, huge disappointment,” he recalled. “I
think everyone feels we’re going to have a great team and everyone is
confident.”

As for pressure, Colliton believes that it isn’t something that any
player that has already draped the maple leaf over their chest hasn’t
felt before, and that it’s to be expected when representing Canada in
international play.

“I think that, with the returning players, there’s pressure, but there’s no more pressure then we put on ourselves, or the
country puts on us, so it’s just the responsibility that comes with playing for Canada.” said Colliton.

So while he awaits his opportunity for revenge against the Americans in
the 2005 World Junior Championships, Colliton will have to settle for
the Russians, who are set to invade Alberta at the beginning of
December.

Most importantly for Colliton, though, his focus for the short term
will be to serve as an anchor, and turn his Prince Albert Raiders
around, and headed in the right direction in the WHL’s Eastern
Conference.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.