The next bench opportunity

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September 11, 2014 2:56 PM

Last year, Travis Clayton (pictured top row, left) coached the Lloydminster Heat (bantam) team to an Alberta Bantam Hockey League AAA Championship and will be the man behind the bench of the midget AAA Bobcats this season. - File Photo

Travis Clayton is the man behind the bench of the midget Bobcats after an impressive stint with the bantam Heat

The only thing that could top last season’s success for Travis Clayton this year would be a Telus Cup victory.

It’s a tall order to ask from the Lloydminster Midget AAA Bobcats new bench boss, but with his highpowered style of offence and a strong hockey program in Lloydminster beside him, there is no telling how far the coach can go.

With the Lloydminster Heat (bantam) in 2013-14, Clayton helped lead the team to Kelowna on a trip to the Western Canadian Bantam Championships. They finished with a silver medal after losing to North Shore 4-3 in the finals and finished the tournament with a 3-2 record.

Not a bad finish for his first season behind the bench, which also included an Alberta Bantam Hockey League championship, after his Heat team finished with a 31-1-1 record last season and cruised through the playoffs.

Now with the door open for Clayton with the AAA Bobcats, he is looking at a new challenge on the next level of hockey.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity so I took it,” said Clayton.

Clayton is no stranger to the hockey rink, as the Paradise Hill native played four seasons in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League between 1992 and 1997, scoring over 100 points at least twice in his four years. He then spent time in the Central Hockey League, a minor professional league, with the Wichita Thunder from 1997 to 2011.

Now his focus is on coaching and taking that path as far as he can go. He has his sights on a junior A coaching job, or even a job behind the bench in some capacity at the Canadian Hockey League level. But for now, he is happy where he is in Lloydminster, coaching and developing the next group of midget players.

“You always want to go as far as you can,” said Clayton. “I am happy where I am now, but obviously you want to move up. But I think I am a couple years away from that. I guess we’ll just wait and see.”

Some of Clayton’s former Heat players could make the lineup for his Bobcats team this winter. Under his eye, eight of his players were drafted out of bantam to the Western Hockey League, including Jantzen Leslie, who went in the first round to the Everett Silvertips and Kobe Mohr to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

With such a skilled team last season, Clayton is already having to adapt his style to the midget level of hockey, focusing more of defence, rather than his usual gunning style of play.

“It’s going to be a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it,” said Clayton. “Last year, I had a pretty mature hockey team for bantam age and I coached it just like a junior coach would kind of do, the same kind of systems. I don’t think I’ll have to change a whole lot that way with these guys.”

But while the coach on the ice likes to see his team scoring goals, off the ice, he believes strongly in the team becoming a family, grouping together throughout the season to lean on each other.

“Everyone has to be tight-knit, it is what wins championships.”

With an impressive resume that is still growing, midget hockey players in Lloydminster have a quality coach looking over them. And with the Telus Cup date already circled on his calender, it could just be a matter of time before Clayton is bringing the top national midget trophy to the Border City.

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