Gengenbach delivers in return from injury
Camrose Kodiaks (from left) Tyler Schendel, Colson Gengenbach and Colby Wolter celebrate Gengenbach's first period goal on Drayton Valley Thunder goalie Tymen Edelkoort III during Alberta Junior Hockey League action in Camrose on Monday. The Kodiaks won 7-2. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
Few players were looking forward to the Camrose Kodiaks New Year's Day game more than rookie forward Colson Gengenbach.
The 17-year-old winger has spent more than a month shelved this season with a high ankle sprain that has shelved him twice. On Monday, he made his triumphant return to the lineup and sparked the offence early as the Kodiaks stormed past the Drayton Valley Thunder 7-2.
Gengenbach pounced on a loose puck at 9:09 of the first period and buried it past Drayton goalie Tymen Edelkoort III. The goal opened the floodgates for three more in the period for Camrose.
"It was nice, it was a relief a couple of shifts in to get a goal and settle into the game and get going again," said the Edmonton native.
Gengenbach originally injured his ankle in a game against the Calgary Canucks on Oct. 28. He did not return to action until Nov. 17. He reinjured the same ankle on Dec. 5 against the Thunder and did not play again until Monday. It was a frustrating experience for the skilled forward who was just starting to gain traction in his first Alberta Junior Hockey League season before getting injured for the second time.
"It was tough, it was not broken, I was still able to walk and still able to skate a bit, so it was tough to be out when you think you can play … but it wouldn't be smart to do that," said the five-foot-10, 170-pound rookie.
The potential has been evident for Gengenbach since he arrived in training camp. He caught the Kodiaks' eye after scoring 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) in 37 games with the South Side Athletic Club Bulldogs bantam AAA team two years ago in Edmonton. It was enough to earn seven games with the Kodiaks the last season while playing midget AAA for SSAC, a season in which he scored 20 points (11-9-20) in 34 games, but six points (3-3-6) in seven playoff games.
As difficult as it was for Gengenbach not to play, general manager and head coach Boris Rybalka was dying to get him together with Colby Wolter and Tyler Schendel in regular season action after they dominated during training camp.
Due to injuries, Monday was just the third game they have played together all season, and they showed just how effective they could be. They were dangerous all night and Schendel scored in the third period on the power play.
"They're tenacious, they're quick, they're buzz saws and fans got to see what they were like today," said Rybalka. "They're hard to play against because they just work their butts off, and that's why I think Wolter, Gengenbach and Schendel will not only be a key force for us going down the stretch but going into the playoffs too."
They have the potential to give the Kodiaks four lines that can be counted on for offence. With the long list of injuries the Kodiaks have gone through this season, their line have been stuck mostly in a blender. But with captain Ryan Hartman set to return along with Ryan McKinnon and Nick Correale from suspension suddenly Rybalka may actually be able to construct a roster with options as opposed to tape sutures.
One line that continues to roll has been Carson and McKenzie Welke and whoever has been on the right wing. The Welkes have gone from merely agitating to play against to a constant offensive threat. On Monday McKenzie scored twice while Carson picked up three assists. Carson now has eight points in his last six games while McKenzie has four in his last four games.
"You throw the Welkes out and it just puts a smile on my face," said Rybalka. "They're meat and potatoes, the work hard, they do things honestly, the way you're supposed to do it. You put it in the effort every day. With them, every shift in hockey it's the same … and it's paying dividends for them."
The Kodiaks (13-16-8) host the Okotoks Oilers (29-6-2) on Saturday at 6 p.m. and the Calgary Canucks (16-21-1) on Sunday at 2 p.m. Next weekend they are on the road to play the Canucks again and the Brooks Bandits. It is an opportunity for them to make up some critical points and put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the ACAC South Division.
NOTES – Camrose product Daine Milgate scored his first career AJHL goal in Monday's game … Affiliated player and Camrose native Dallon Melin made his debut with the club and picked up an assist.