By Andrew MENDLER:
The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs will be losing another high caliber player to Division I hockey, as defenseman Dan Wedman will be suiting up for the NCAA’s Cornell Big Red next season.
Wedman, who finished his Junior A career with 32 points in 95 games, logged a lot of ice time in his two seasons with the Pontiacs, playing in all situations. He is proud to be taking his game to Ithaca, New York to play for the Ivy League school. “I obviously had the goal of planning to move on to college hockey at the Division I level,” said Wedman. “I had been talking to Cornell the year before as well as a couple other schools. I stayed in touch with them. I really liked the program they have; academics combined with athletics.”
Wedman plans on taking an economics and management program for two years before specializing in finance. He had a chance to visit the school earlier in the season.
“It is a beautiful campus with a lot of great buildings and scenery. There is a lake right beside it and a couple waterfalls. It is pretty cool,” said Wedman. A benefit to playing for the Big Red in the Eastern College Athletics Conference (ECAC) is that he will be in the same conference as close friend and Pontiac teammate Spencer Foo.
“Our schools are only a couple hours apart. We are both in the ECAC, so we will be playing each other a couple times next year. I’m really looking forward to that,” said Wedman.
Foo will be suiting up for the Union College Dutchmen, who play just 244 kilometers east of Cornell in Schenectady, NY.
The two will be looking to expand on the many memories they made during there two seasons together in Bonnyville.
Wedman says he made a lot of great memories during his time as a member of the Pontiacs and had a “great experience” playing with a “great group of guys.” “There are tons of memories both on and off the ice. Everyday was another memory being made. Especially this year when we had that lounge installed by the coaches’ office. We spent a lot of time in there making memories, playing ping pong, watching hockey games. It was great,” said Wedman.
“On the ice, one of the greatest memories I had was in my first year as a Pontiac. One day our coach was mad at us, the next day we got to the rink thinking we were going to get bagged skated or something. Turns out we ended up playing a shinny game at the Fort Kent outdoor rink, which we called the Fort Kent classic and that was a lot of fun.”
It was a tough start to the 2013-14 season for Wedman as eye issues sidelined him for the first quarter of the season. He attended Pontiacs training camp and played a few exhibition games before opting to have eye surgery.
“That is always tough. You never want to start a season out like that, but I stuck with it. I got to spend time in Bonnyville with the guys and worked on the mental side of the game a bit more,” said Wedman. “Coming back, I did everything I could to try and help the guys out. We finished off strong, obviously not the results in the playoffs we wanted, but overall I thought we grew as a team. It was a great year.”
He attributes a lot of the success he has had early on in his career to his coaches Rick Swan and Larry Draper who had both met Wedman before he was a member of the Pontiacs.
“Coach Swan had a huge influence on my hockey career,” said Wedman. “He recognized my potential before anyone else. He was the one who suggested I come to Bonnyville, even before he became an assistant coach. He has worked with me and developed me, I can’t thank Rick enough.”
“I have known Dan since he was in Grade 10 and I was the head instructor at the Louis St. Laurent High School hockey academy,” said Swan. “He came in as a gangly kid with ability, but you could tell he had the late development thing going on and was going through. He was just a step behind some of the elite players in his age category and always focusing on doing things right all the time.”
Swan says that Wedman put a lot of work in both on and off the ice to become a better player and was one of the most coachable players he has worked with. “He skates very well. He has got great size and he plays an intelligent game,” said Swan. “He allowed himself to be coachable enough to be an effective player at the junior level. He invested tremendously hard during the summer time to now where we can see the potential going forward.”
Wedman will be in a tough battle to crack the Big Red squad as a 19-year-old, but says he is ready for the challenge.
“I am going to be training pretty hard this off-season, staying in the gym and on the ice. Hopefully I can come into the next level and be a roster defenseman. I will be coming into their camp in my top shape and will try and earn myself a spot,” said Wedman.
“It is a massive jump to Cornell. We wish he would have stayed to continue maturing,” said Swan. “ But we certainly wish him all of the luck in the world. Dan is a learner and he will do whatever is asked of him to create an opportunity for himself. He is going to need some time and some patience from the coaching staff in Cornell to be able to develop at that level but if they handle him right, he'll have an opportunity to play in the National Hockey League.”