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‘The boys are pumped up’: Veteran forward Riley Hearn enjoying Calgary Canucks’ ride to the Centennial Cup

Riley Hearn’s journey with the Calgary Canucks hasn’t been an easy one, but he’s stuck it out and is now headed to play for the Centennial Cup following a successful season.

In his first season, the Canucks had just 36 points and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

In year two, the Canucks improved by 11 points but once again got bounced in the first round.

This year, however, was a complete turnaround for the third-year Canuck. Hearn and his teammates were crowned AJHL champs after beating the Whitecourt Wolverines in a four-game sweep.

“It felt awesome,” said the 21-year-old forward.

“From my first year to now we completely changed the culture around here. In terms of our on-ice performance, we’ve been winning games throughout the regular season and we’ve been more consistent and it’s paid off. We had an awesome playoffs and the boys are pumped up.”

Big-time leader

Culture doesn’t change overnight and for the Canucks it’s taken three seasons which just coincides with when Hearn joined the team.

When he came to the Canucks a few years back, Hearn wanted to be part of the solution. He worked closely with head coach Brad Moran to bring in a new attitude.

“I’d call him the heartbeat of the team,” said Moran.

“The guys rally around him and he’s always having fun and talking. For me, it’s the intangibles he brings on and off the ice, that’s his biggest assets.”

Hearn has had to fight for everything he’s gotten in the game of hockey. He’s only 5’3’ (160 centimetres), but forward Matt Paszkiewicz says Hearn is a player everyone looks up to.

“You know, he made me feel welcome when I first came here,” said 18-year-old Paszkiewicz.

“He’s a great team guy and he puts a lot of effort in even behind the scenes. He makes sure everyone gets the best treatment and he’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

Quite the turnaround

Hearn knew right from the start of training camp that this Canucks team had turned a corner. But could he have envisioned that this team would be AJHL champs?

“Well two years ago I would’ve said no way,” he said.

“But at the beginning of this year, I had a feeling that the locker room that we had and the group of guys we had that anything could be possible and we were able to prove some people wrong and go the distance this year.”

Up next for Hearn and the Canucks is the Centennial Cup. That tournament gets underway on May 9 in Oakville, Ont.

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