Drew Worrad and his Steinbach Pistons’ teammates are focused on the ANAVET Cup and expected tough series against Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL. While these are happy days for Worrad, he can’t help but think back when he was very close to packing up his equipment bag and walking away from hockey.
A year ago he thought his hockey path was all set: move on from his Junior A club (Oakville Blades) to play hockey for an American college which had verbally committed to him. Worrad was rocked when the coaching staff of the team were released, and the new head coach and staff did not extend Worrad an invitation to camp.
“I was really disappointed,” Worrad said. “I didn’t have anything in writing (commitment). It was all verbal. I had basically made up my mind to quit and get on with life. Get a job so I could pay for university. But then (Steinbach Pistons’ GM) Paul called me and asked if I was interested in coming to Steinbach,” Worrad said with a laugh.
“I’d never heard about Steinbach. Didn’t have a clue where it was.”
Worrad told Dyck he was interested and the wheels quickly began turning to bring him out west. It was a phone call which would forever change Worrad’s hockey fortunes. He’s become a key figure in the Pistons’ success, earning Playoff MVP honours in helping the Pistons win the Turnbull Cup: the second one in franchise history. Pistons now take on Nipawin in the ANAVET Cup best-of-seven series, with the winner moving on the RBC Cup next month in Alberta. (AVANET Cup Schedule)
“It’s really been a roller coaster for me,” Worrad said, who hails from Birr, ON. “Pistons have a fantastic organization. I was pretty lucky.”
Earlier this season, the Pistons happily announced that Worrad had committed to Western Michigan University. (Teammate Riese Gaber has also committed to WMU.)
The road to the ANAVET Cup was a bumpy one for the Pistons who only lost eight regular season games. Two very difficult playoff series against Winnipeg Blues and Virden Oil Capitals have battled hardened the Pistons.
“I can’t say that the pressure lifted after we beat Virden,” said Worrad. “But we definitely had to overcome adversity to win. And that’s a good thing. We know the further we go, there will be even more adversity to face and deal with. After we won the Turnbull, we quickly turned the page and began to prepare for Nipawin, who are a very good team.”
Prior to the beginning of this hockey season, the previous Western Canada Cup tournament came to an end with the revival of the hotly contested SJHL/MJHL ANAVET Cup. While none of these Pistons, or Hawks for that matter, have played in an ANAVET Cup, many of the players from both sides did compete in the recent MJHL/SJHL Showcase in Regina, giving them a taste of the provincial rivalry.
“It’s going to be intense, fast hockey,” Worrad said, who is in his final year of Junior A eligibility. “The winner goes to the RBC Cup. It’s going to be a battle. We’re looking forward to it.”