One of the original advantages of bringing a junior A franchise to the Swan River Valley was providing local players a chance to play high-level hockey close to home. And throughout their history, the Swan Valley Stampeders have done just that.
When you think of local Valley players; names such as Dallas Anderson, Joel Mateika, Bo Storozuk, Darcy and Jeff Riddell, Jayson Argue and more spring to mind.
But never before have so many local players figured so prominently on the Stampeders. Rookie Riley McKay already has a huge game-winning goal this year. Chandler Ashcroft has also been able to contribute, both on the score sheet and in other intangible ways.
And then there’s the line of Cody Ellingson, Josh Tripp, and Tristin Langan. One’s a rookie, one a veteran who still won’t turn 17 until December and the other is only 19 years old. Despite the youthfulness of the trio, they lead the team in scoring with a combined 23 goals and 42 assists.
The trio are also in the top 30 scorers in the league, with second-year, 16 year old Langan leading the way with nine goals and 18 assists.
Langan’s success comes despite being the youngest player on the line, and with a December birthday, has usually been one of the youngest players on any team he’s been on.
“It’s not something I worry about,” he said about his age. “I’m a ’98, and that’s all that matters.”
Putting the three local players on one line has seemed to help all three, as all have seen a jolt in their point production.
“We were thrown together at the start of the month,” said Ellingson, a recent player of the week in the MJHL. “I think that’s when we started to take off offensively.”
Tripp, a 17-year-old rookie, is third in league scoring amongst first-year players. He said he was a bit surprised at how successful he’s been offensively so far this year.
“There are quite a few good players on this team,” said Tripp. “I was just excited to play for the Stamps, and didn’t expect to do this good (this early on).”
Perhaps all three are having the level of success they are enjoying due to the level of comfort they have with each other.
“I think a big part of our success is that we know each other,” said Tripp. “We worked out together, and hung out together. That helps.”
“We worked out together every day in the summer, and we’re always hanging out,” added Ellingson. “We’re all really good friends.”
“I’ve known both of them pretty much my whole life – it’s awesome,” added Tripp.
Langan echoed those comments, saying the fact all three know each other helps them succeed on the ice.
“I’ve played with Josh all my life, and Cody and I are really good buddies,” said Langan. “I think we have a lot of chemistry on the ice, and I’m looking forward to a good year with them.”
Langan, of course, almost didn’t start the season with the Stampeders, as he had a successful camp with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. But he opted to return to the Valley, and the Stamps are a better team because of it.
“I think it was the best option for me,” noted Langan. “I’ll have to see what happens later on.” Training in the off season is a must these days, and Ellingson had the extra motivator for working out this past summer. His mother, Sandy Ellingson, is a personal trainer who has helped the team with strength and conditioning for several years.
This group of local players might have partly been inspired by watching the Stampeders when they were younger. The three leading scorers also had their local heros to emulate.
“I enjoyed watching Ian Lowe,” said Tripp. “He used to come to the schools and I skated with him a couple of times. And Stephan Vigier was one of my favourite players as well.”
Ellingson’s family used to billet players such as Brendan Mitchell and Paul Bonar.
“And I always liked the local players, guys like Darcy Riddell and Joel Mateika,” he added.
And who did Langan look up to?
“I used to love watching Patrick Leask and Darcy Riddell play,” he said.
Ellingson looked up to local Stamps when he was a youth, and now he too is inspiring young players in the Valley.
“I like talking to the younger kids, and being someone they can look up to,” he said. “I like to have fun with them, going to practices and stuff.”
So how high can the Stampeders, who were once in last place in the league, climb this year? That has yet to be determined. But there’s a renewed sense of optimism on the team.
“If we keep playing the way we’re playing, I think we can get as high as fifth place before Christmas,” said Langan.