“He’s a kid you can definitely build your program around,” says Creston Valley Thunder Cats coach-GM Nick Redding on captain Andrew Clark.
Clark is a key piece to what the Thunder Cats do. Redding, who has coached Clark during his entire Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) career, which started with his hometown Spokane Braves, says Clark always shows up to the rink ready to work, puts in the extra time, hits the gym. He is always trying to get better. He recently hit 200 career regular season games in the KIJHL.
“It’s pretty great coaching him. He’s very coachable,” says Nick, who was an assistant coach to Clark under his father Garry in Spokane.
Entering his final KIJHL season, the Spokane native wanted to improve his defensive play without sacrificing offence. He’s achieved that. He is on pace to surpass last season’s career high totals of 29 points, which included a new season-high nine goals. Currently he is tied with Josh Dalquist with 18 points, including three goals – all game-winners, two in overtime.
Clark, who earned a scholarship with the University of Jamestown Jimmies in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, has overcome a slow start and turned it on. In October he had a four-game stretch picking up eight points. This month he is on a three-game point streak. He considers himself a two-way defenceman that can produce and helps forwards generate offence by making a strong first-pass.
Clark, named the Top Defenceman in the Eddie Mountain Division in 2018-19, plays in every situation receiving more than 20 minutes of ice time every night. A strong hockey IQ is key to him making better plays in his own end. Nick says Clark rarely gets beat and has broken up several two-on-one situations. His overall positioning and ability to move the puck at the right time is better. He has seen the growth in himself as a player and person.
Along with his parents, Clark says the Reddings are big hockey influences. They have played a key role in his development.
“It was great being able to play there. A lot of kids who are from Alberta or other places don’t get the opportunity to come to B.C. when they are 16, 17. I was lucky enough to play in this league at that age. Even better to play at home.
“They took a chance on me at 16,” added Clark of the Reddings. “Best thing that could have happened to me as a player. Learned a lot from them.”