While it wasn’t quite the send off an overage junior hockey player wants to experience, Adam Cracknell knows that at least he has more hockey to play this spring.
In first-round WHL playoff action, the Kelowna Rockets ousted the Kootenay Ice in six games. Cracknell, 20, along with veterans Dale Mahovsky and Casey Lee, bid farewell to the city of Cranbrook following a 5-2 loss to the Rockets on Apr. 2. The defeat marked the third consecutive season the Ice have been eliminated by the Rockets.
“The fans here are very knowledgeable and they recognize the players of Adam’s caliber who have played here over the past eight seasons,” said Ice general manager, Jeff Chynoweth. “All of our 20-year-olds received a standing ovation and a nice send off after the final game against Kelowna. I guess the only problem with that is we had hoped for it to happen a couple of months down the road.”
Cracknell’s impact on the franchise will not soon be forgotten. When asked if there is any particular emotion felt concerning his junior career with the Ice, Chynoweth was not lost for words.
“Total satisfaction,” Chynoweth beamed. “Adam came in here as a non-drafted player and made the team as a walk-on. Four years later, he was our team captain, a drafted player and he finished second in league scoring this season.
“Adam had a big impact here,” Chynoweth continued. “He’s a big man and as an older player his leadership has been invaluable to the players who will be here next year. And he’s been a very community-minded player during his career here.”
The Calgary Flames have taken notice and have been in contact with Cracknell and the Ice. It seems the native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan is on his way to Omaha to finish out the season in the AHL with the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. He will join a few former WHLers as Brett Palin (Kelowna), Cam Cunning (Kamloops/Vancouver), Aki Seitsonen (Prince Albert) and Richie Regehr (Portland/Kelowna).
While reflecting upon the past regular season, Cracknell was philosophical about his achievements.
“I suppose I have to say things have gone quite well,” Cracknell said. “Points-wise I’m happy, my goal was to get 80 points because I felt that would really help the team. It’s my last season and I felt I needed a big one to try and impress the Flames. But I really just wanted to see our team win. We started to do that consistently the last part of the season so it’s made for a good year.”
Indeed, Cracknell exceeded his goal, posting 93 points while playing in all 72 games. He scored 42 goals, 12 of which came on the power play with three more shorthanded. The 6’2, 215-pound right-winger finished the season with a +29 rating. During the playoff round, he and linemates Ben Maxwell and Ryan Russell (NYR) combined for 21 points in six games. He was named the WHL Player of the Month for March.
Entering the playoffs, Cracknell acknowledged the tough B.C. Division has made for some intense hockey down the stretch.
“All season it’s been so close in the standings,” he said. “You lose one game, you’re in fourth place. You win one and you’re in first. So this year it has been a real battle. I think that’s been good for our club because it really should help to prepare you for the playoffs.”
With the postseason weighing heavily on the Ice, Cracknell chose to downplay his opportunity with the Flames.
“I’ve seen some scouts this season and they’re very helpful with advice,” Cracknell said. “It’s nice to have contact, but it’s been important to be focused on the playoffs and I wanted to concentrate on our run here. I’ve never really looked too far forward, I just felt the playoffs are where the real player comes out in everyone.”
Cracknell’s road to the NHL began with minor hockey in Prince Albert, through his first year as a bantam. His family relocated to Victoria, BC, where he played his second year of bantam hockey before one season of junior ‘B’ with the Saanich Braves of the BIJHL. He attended Kootenay’s training camp following the club’s 2001 Memorial Cup run and has been there ever since.
“I’ve been able to attend three rookie camps with the Flames so far,” Cracknell recalled. “The experience has really helped me to develop. I need to build speed, quicker feet. I know that will come in time through training, even in the offseason.
“I definitely feel I have the smarts and the shot to play professionally. It’s just important to develop that quick first step because it’s a faster game and you’re playing with men up there, so you have to get bigger and stronger. I’m really interested in competing at that level next year.”
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