Delayed Debut

Candice Ward/Photo

The debut was put on hold.

But Nick Sanders will achieve a life-long dream when he suits up for his hometown Hitmen in 2018-19.

The netminder had a rollercoaster 2017-18 campaign, from starting with the Prince Albert Raiders, a stint in the AJHL, to being traded to the Hitmen.

Although Sanders was on the roster since January, a nagging lower body injury prevented the hometown kid to see a minute of action.

“It was frustrating to not get in a game this year but at the same time it was great to get to know the guys and the coaches,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t a bad thing whatsoever; if anything it just made me more motivated.

“I’m so excited for next season and I want this summer to just fly by.”

Headed into his final season in the WHL, Sanders is motivated to make the most of his overage season in the league.

He took it upon himself to pick the brain of Nick Schneider, a five-year veteran, in what he could implement into his own game and learn a few things in what made the goaltender so successful in his career.

“He’s been in this league for so long and his level of mental preparation is unbelievable,” he said. “He’s so focused before every game and he has that pro mentality. That’s something special to have that I’m hoping to catch onto.”

Although the 20-year-old spent more time in the gym with his rehab than on the ice, there was never a dull moment as he relished being a part of the team he grew up idolizing.

Sanders quickly found himself feeling a part of a family and the highlight of the year just so happened to be with rookie defenceman Jackson van de Leest who was dealing with the same injury.

“We were in Victoria working out in the gym and I put my phone on the bench and next thing I see is him putting it on the floor but I didn’t think anything of it at first,” he explained. “He does his reps and then drops a dumbbell right on my phone and it just wrecked it. I had to go four or five days without a phone and I haven’t done that since I had a phone. It was a funny moment but I definitely made him pay for the repair.”

It was one memory that he’ll always remember and look back and laugh at but next season, Sanders is hoping there will be different memories with manning the Hitmen crease.

“I want to come in and be the guy,” he said. I want to play 50 plus games and win 30 plus games and carry this team to a championship next year.”

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