Sports

Leaner Matheson competes for job with Rockets

Tyler Matheson -
Tyler Matheson
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How badly does Tyler Matheson want to crack the Kelowna Rockets lineup this season ?

Enough to shed 13 per cent of his body weight.

The 20-year-old Victoria native dropped 35 pounds over the summer and arrived at the WHL club’s training camp tipping the scales at a lithe 225.

The once-pudgy Matheson, who is in a battle for an over-age roster spot with the Rockets, was handed an ultimatum by the team last spring—be prepared to show up this season in dramatically better shape, or simply stay at home.

So, between sticking to a strict diet, hitting the gym on a daily basis, and playing junior A lacrosse, Matheson had clearly made his choice.

“I knew it would be a battle, it wouldn’t be easy, but it’s something I really wanted to do,” said the 6-foot-2 Matheson who had three points and 83 penalty minutes in 63 games last season.

“I wasn’t ready to see an end to my hockey career. I just wanted to come to camp, showing I wanted to be on this team and not give them a reason to cut me, or release me. I did all I could to be ready.”

Matheson is among four potential candidates for Kelowna’s three over-age spots in 2010-11.

Defenceman Brendon Wall, and forwards Geordie Wudrick and Evan Bloodoff round out the club’s cast of 20-year-olds. Those dynamics will change if either Wudrick or Bloodoff turn pro this fall with the Phoenix Coyotes organization.

Regardless of the scenario, Matheson plans to leave nothing to chance in his bid to stay in Kelowna.

“All of the 20s know it’s a big battle…good luck to all the guys,” Matheson said. “I try to control the things I can do, like working hard, sticking to my diet and staying in shape, and trying to be a leader on the team. A big key for me is doing the simple things and sticking with them. Hopefully it’ll be enough.”

Unlike Bloodoff or Wudrick, should they return, Matheson’s role clearly won’t be to provide offense.

His physical play is his most important asset, while an ability to play forward or defense adds to his value.

“He knows he’s not here to score goals, he has to finish his hits and be a hard guy to play against,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “It’s important that he understands his role, brings energy when we need him, and steps up when we need him to get involved.”

“We’re happy for Tyler, he sent a message that we wants to be here by getting in shape,” added Huska, “and we’re happy for the club that he’s here.”

Rocket Shots…Rockets F Shane McColgan, 17, is back home in Manhattan Beach, California tending to a throat ailment. The 2010 Western Conference rookie of the year is expected to back with the club within the next 10 days…The Rockets host the Kamloops Blazers Saturday night in exhibition action at Prospera Place…Kelowna will battle the Bruins twice next weekend—Friday, Sept. 17 in Chilliwack, then the following night at Prospera.

whenderson@kelownacapnews.com

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