By Mike Stackhouse
The ever changing face of the Kindersley Klippers offense is now fronted by 1996 F Branden Wagner (Kelowna BC). The much traveled 20-year-old started his junior career with a cup of coffee in West Kelowna, then moving on to Vernon and Salmon Arm in the BCHL before a stint in Grande Prairie of the AJHL, where he scored 8-goals and 15-assists in 44-games.
Wagner was picked up by Klippers Coach/GM Geoff Grimwood prior to this season to provide consistency and he’s delivered his end of the bargain by leading the team in goals and points through the first half. “Branden has brought veteran leadership to our dressing room and has been, quietly, one of the top goal scorers in the SJHL,” said Grimwood.
Wagner says he’s noticed a bit of an age difference coming to the SJHL from the BCHL. “I think with the depth players, it seems that in Saskatchewan they are a bit older with defined roles that they’ve settled into over time instead of just rounding out the roster with younger guys. For me, I think I’ve made the best of the opportunity that has been given to me. The coach has shown that he trusts me in all situations and I want to continue to earn that.”
Wagner is hopeful of continuing his playing career in the NCAA, but is also fine with moving back closer to home and mixing his hockey aspirations with his vocational ones. “I have been interested in Criminal Law. I like the psychology end of it and I have been considering trying the RCMP.” Wagner has written his SAT (1375) and is an above average student with high school grades approaching 80%.
Meanwhile, unheralded Tate Page (Vanderhoof BC) didn’t pick up his first point until early December; but the 6’5” 230 lbs giant has been a project that has grown by leaps and bounds in a short period of time. “Tate has improved tremendously throughout the season and I’m really excited about him because he’s one of our more promising young players. He’s a great teammate, works extremely hard, and has a very bright future in our league,” says Grimwood.
Page, despite being a first year eligible player in the junior ranks, already has two seasons of Junior ‘B’ experience under his belt with 100 Mile House of the KIJHL. “Playing against older guys taught me a lot about them and allowed me to watch and learn and it also help me get a little quicker and stronger,” said Page.
Page says while his skating has improved, he doesn’t anticipate being a big scoresheet contributor. “I am going to always be someone who uses his size and defensive side more than offense.”
Page comes from an agriculture background and has interests in cattle ranching beyond hockey. He has not written his SAT and was a B student in high school.
The Klippers do have a favorable second half schedule with an abundance of home games. Clive Rozdeba and Andrew McCann have been minutes eaters on defense, while Cole Plotnikoff, Cody Hodgson, and Sam Binfet have been key in aiding Wagner up front.
You can view his stats at http://sjhl.hockeytech.com/player?playerId=3198&season=29