Hard work pays off for Kiriakou

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:23 PM ET

During Friday's game between the 67's and Brampton Battalion at the Civic Centre, Ottawa centre Thomas Kiriakou made a play in the opening period that seemed rather unimportant at the time.

But in the grand scheme of things, it was the kind of effort Kiriakou makes regularly, and what makes the 17-year-old rookie so valuable to his team.

Taking a faceoff in the neutral zone early in the game while Ottawa was down two players to penalty, Kiriakou won the draw and managed to flip the puck high into the Brampton end, killing valuable time in the Battalion two-man advantage.

Kiriakou is one of the team's top faceoff men, right up there with captain Julian Talbot.

Coach Brian Kilrea won't hesitate to put him out there for key draws, or as a penalty killer.

You can't help but notice Kiriakou every time he takes the ice. He's always working. He's by no means a natural scorer, and he'll be lucky to get 50 goals before his OHL career ends in two or three years.

CATCHING COACH'S EYE

But that doesn't really matter, because Kilrea sees the kind of consistent effort from Kiriakou that could get the kid a pro contract down the road.

"He reminds me of Konopka," said Kilrea, referring to former 67's captain Zenon Konopka, who played with his heart on his sleeve in junior and has finally been rewarded with an NHL roster spot in Anaheim.

"Zenon and Thomas are the same because they both have to work hard to get there," said Kilrea, speaking about the NHL. "They work hard for everything they get, and that's why you value those players."

Kiriakou comes from a large extended family that loves hockey, but he's the first one of the bunch to make it to the OHL after being taken in the fifth round out of the Richmond Hill Stars.

He joined the 67's last year during the Christmas break, and stuck around for the remainder of the regular season and playoff run, getting sparse game action but an opportunity to work out with the club.

This year, he recorded an assist on the first 67's goal of the season on the road in Sault Ste. Marie, and has 13 points heading into the final portion of the regular schedule. His goal is to reach 20 points in his first full OHL year.

Kiriakou credits his parents for the work ethic, and his minor hockey coaches for giving him the basis for his hockey knowledge. He's come a long way since scoring six goals in his first house-league game as a seven-year-old.

"It's not where you start, it's where you end," said Kiriakou. "I may not be a first-rounder, but there's 30 NHL teams out there, and not every one needs to like you, only one."

Maybe it'll work out for him -- just like it did for Zenon Konopka.

TOURNEY TOWN: Ottawa's bid for the 2009 IIHF world juniors isn't the only area effort to land a major hockey event. Cornwall is going for the 2008 RBC Royal Bank Cup, the Junior A national championship. Cornwall Colts owner Matt Jacobs fronts the bid and will be competing against Kindersley, Sask., Camrose, Alta., and Winnipeg. Hockey Canada will announce the successful bid in May at its annual meeting in St. John's.

ODDS AND ENDS: 67's owner Jeff Hunt pushed for video replay -- again -- at OHL meetings prior to the all-star game in Belleville earlier in the week. The league eventually wants to adopt replay, but is leaning toward a system where officials at a central "war room" office would determine close calls on disputed goals ... The Windsor Spitfires have won 11 straight games at home ... Ted Baker, the OHL's director of hockey operations and referee-in-chief told the London Free Press earlier this week the league will start clamping down on players for pre-fight posturing.

SHOOTING STARS: The Metro Division teams took both games during yesterday's Eastern Ontario Junior B all-star day at Sandy Hill Arena. Metro downed the Valley squad 10-5 in the rookie game, followed by a 9-4 Metro victory in the veteran contest. Aaron McLeon of the Metcalfe Jets had a goal and three assists to earn the MVP nod for Metro in the rookie game. Travis O'Donnell of the Arnprior Packers took the Valley honour. In the veteran game, Shawn Tremblay of the Gatineau Mustangs got the MVP nod after scoring twice, while Jordan McDougall of the Shawville Pontiacs led Valley with a pair of goals. A full list of goal scorers can found on Page S16.

IN THE CREASE: The A-Channel is hosting an online auction to support the Sebastien Savage Fund. Several items of sports memorabilia will be available starting tomorrow at www.achannel.ca ... Looks like they're bringing in the big names to perform the national anthem at the Fred Page Cup, beginning April 26 in Pembroke. Barring a conflict with his Senators gig, Lyndon Slewidge will belt it out during the opening ceremony. Organizers are also trying to land Michael Burgess of Les Miserables stage fame for the playoff round ... And speaking of anthem singers, Denise Gagnon-Lebrun, who performs them occasionally at 67's games, is one of the best.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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