At the start of November there were seven teams who had between six and eight victories ─ a sign of just how competitive and how much parity there is in the MJHL this year.
The Waywayseecappo Wolverines are in that group of seven – hoping to move their way up the standings. And to do that, they’ll be relying on the continued strong play of 20-year-old forward George Splichal.
Hailing from Oakdale, Minn., Splichal has nearly doubled his point-per-game production this year, going from a half-a-point per game to nearly a point-per-game this year.
Wayway Head coach Barry Butler said he saw signs of Splichal coming on last season, a trend which has continued this year.
“I think if you look at how George developed last year, he was probably at a point-a-game pace after January, when it’s tougher to play in the league,” said Butler.
“And everyone wanted to play with him last year, and we were sure looking forward to him coming back and having a big year for us, and he sure hasn’t disappointed us. He works extremely hard, he does more rather than less to keep himself ready to play, and loves the game.
“For a walk-on player last year, it’s tremendous for our organization and says a lot about George.”
Splichal said this is an important season for both himself and the Wolverines, and he made sure he did all he could to prepare for this campaign.
“I worked a lot harder in the off season,” he said. “I came to realize this is my last year and if I want to go somewhere I need to step up my game. I’ve been putting more effort into my game this year for sure.”
Splichal is hardly the first American to end up in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and his road to the Wolverines is a common one in this day and age – word of mouth.
“I actually thought I was done with hockey,” he said. “But my buddy was playing up here last year and thought I would be interested in playing up here. He gave my number to Barry and he called and asked if I would be interested.
“I ended up here just in time for the last couple of days of tryouts, and it all worked out.”
Splichal had 33 points in 60 games last year. This season he already has 17 after
20 games this year. He admits the level of play is dramatically improved this season.
“It’s a lot tougher and faster – that’s pretty much it,” he said. “It’s a lot better hockey for sure.”
Splichal admitted the Wolverines suffered through a slow start but are coming on, recently winning three of five games, including a huge road win over a very strong team from Winkler.
He added the Wolverines have their sights set higher than their current place in the standings.
“We had a rough start, but we’re playing better of late, and I think we can do some damage this year,” he said. “I think we’re going to make the playoffs this year, and we’ll aim to go far.”