Even though it won't be a Wheatland Kings or Strathmore game, we can expect some familiar faces to be on the ice when the Okotoks Oilers AAA U17 team visit on February 4.

Phoenix Flett, Trip Jensen, Connor White, and Nash Wassing are all from Strathmore, but live in Okotoks for the majority of the hockey season, only coming back on weekends to stay with their families. Having played in Strathmore prior to joining Okotoks, all four Oilers are looking forward to playing for their hometown crowd again.

"I haven't played here (Strathmore) for three years now since Pee-wee, so it's gonna be real fun. My friends will be there, my family, it'll be really fun," Flett said.

"It's so exciting, I've been waiting for this one for a long time. It means a lot to be able to play in front of all my friends and family. Being in Strathmore,  being on the rink again, it's going to be awesome. I can't wait," added Wassing.

For White and Wassing, they've already had time to get adjusted to the speed of AAA hockey, as it's their second and third seasons respectively.  As for rookies Jensen and Flett, Jensen says it's taken some time to adjust to the higher level of play.

"The pace is a lot faster in Okotoks because in Strathmore it's AA and Okotoks is AAA so the players are bigger, faster, and the game is just a faster pace," Jensen said.

As the season has gone on, both Jensen and Flett said they've been able to get more comfortable. For Jensen, he says his biggest improvement was a mental thing, rather than physical.

"(My biggest improvement is) thinking the game faster. The games have a faster pace now because we're AAA level so the guys make faster plays and faster skaters and stuff like that, so I had to bring my mind set up to their level so I can make the plays that they do," he said.

Outside of the on-ice adjustments, Flett added it took time to get used to the off-ice situation as well, but having players from Strathmore on the Oilers helped a lot.

"We didn't know the Okotoks guys coming in, we know them now and we're good friends but to know some guys beforehand, it's really good," he said.

Three-year veteran Wassing agrees, and he says the chemistry with this season's team has been great to be a part of.

"We definitely have a real special group of guys and being on a team like this... It's definitely one of the tightest teams I've ever played on. Everyone's super close with each other it's been a great experience so far," Wassing said. 

Despite the fact that Jensen and Flett are new to the team, Wassing said he played with them both in Strathmore already, so the familiarity was there. As a veteran on the team, Wassing has been able to help them as they get adjusted to a new league and situation, but he said the advice he gave was to simply stick with what they already know and continue to work hard.

"They're great hockey players, they have so much potential. It's just: 'don't be stressed about anything, don't be nervous, just go out there and do your thing.'" 

As for two-year veteran and goalie White, he said he expects himself to lead the team both on and off the ice.

"As a second year in the league, I hold myself to a high standard to perform, especially for my team. Take a leadership role so it's a pretty high-pressure position" Connor White, on playing goalie.

While there is a lot of pressure as a goalie, White added he never feels like he's left alone to fend for himself, as the team has great chemistry.

"The players are great supporting me, we all do our best to look out for each other and part of that is picking each other up after we have a weaker game and staying together as a unit and as a family," White said.

You can catch these four Strathmore locals in action on February 4 at 4:45 p.m. when they take on the Calgary Royals. After the Oilers game the Wheatland Kings will be in action against the High River Flyers at 8  it will be a day filled with great hockey in Strathmore!

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