One can only imagine where the Notre Dame Hounds would be without sophomore forward Jarrett Penner.
With just the Weyburn Red Wings having scored fewer goals than the Hounds leading up to the half-way point of the regular season, the 19-year-old Saskatoon product had accounted for slightly less than 20 per cent of Notre Dame’s total production. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Penner had 12 goals in the first 27 games to lead the team in that category and with his six assists he also has the most points overall for the Hounds.
His production was to be expected as he was the highest returning producer from last year’s squad and he will need to continue being the leader if the Hounds hope to hold onto the final playoff berth for the remainder of the season.
Penner enjoyed a strong rookie season last year with Notre Dame as he accumulated 22 goals and 17 assists in 56 games. That output was somewhat surprising as he never had more than 15 goals in any of the previous four seasons. In fact he scored just 25 times during his three-year midget career with the majority of those coming as a 16-year-old while playing Midget AA with the Saskatoon Sabrecats.
Penner brings plenty to the table for the Hounds as his goal total this year already includes four game-winning tallies and six while Notre Dame is enjoying the man advantage. His game also features some grit as his 61 penalty minutes this year and 145 overall in 81 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League games will confirm.
After a stretch early in the season where he collected just four points in 13 games, Penner appears to have turned things around as he had 10 points in nine games leading up to the half-way point of the season.
The Hounds are still in sight of a top-five finish, but they will have to find more offence over the second half to accomplish that. They will also have to keep looking over their shoulder as the four teams behind them are all within striking distance so every game from here on in is going to be that much more important. That is where Penner’s leadership could be invaluable.