Backup battle for the ages

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The WHL season isn't close to starting but it's already been a battle for rookie netminder Marty Jones.

Not only is the 16-year-old looking to crack the Calgary Hitmen lineup, he's got to beat out Brant Miller, who is three years his senior, for what is likely to be the backup job behind Dan Spence.

Good thing the 2005 bantam draft pick likes a challenge.

"I knew there'd be other goalies here but I didn't know Brant would be here," said Jones, who was recently named to B.C.'s Under-17 team that will compete at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

"He's a really good goalie but I'm pretty mature and can handle these types of situations."

So the kid isn't easily intimidated, which speaks volumes about his makeup, and he's feeling pretty good about his chances of securing a spot with the Hitmen.

"It's going good and it's worked out nicely because I'm playing well right now," said the 6-ft. 2-in., 168-lb. netminder, who hung out and practised with the club during last season's playoffs.

"That helped, especially in terms of getting used to the harder shots and quicker release."

Hitmen head coach/GM Kelly Kisio's kept a keen eye on all three 'tenders in camp so far and has high hopes for Jones.

"He's still in the hunt and a key guy for us not only now but down the road as well," Kisio said.

"In the years to come he'll be a great goalie, we think."

While many have Spence pencilled in as the Hitmen starter, his status is not carved in stone.

"He's still fighting for a job. He's going to have to make sure that he comes to the rink everyday competing and showing he wants it," said Kisio, who has 31 players left in camp.

"If he comes in thinking he's got the job and puts his feet up, then he might be in trouble."

Calgary's first exhibition game is Tuesday against the Red Deer Rebels at the Airdrie rec centre (7 p.m.).


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