What a difference for Sonne

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

The pain and frustration is long gone.

But Brett Sonne has not forgotten.

A year ago, the Calgary Hitmen forward was playing the final few games of a torturous season filled with injuries and disappointments.

But those setbacks provided Sonne with the fuel to get his career back on track.

Yesterday, the St. Louis Blues prospect was named the WHL's Eastern Conference Player of the Year.

"It feels pretty good because there's a lot of good talent in the East," Sonne said.

"Obviously, I recognize my linemates and coaching staff. They pushed me and helped throughout the year.

"My goal was to come back and prove to myself that I can be a top scorer in this league."

Sonne got off to a great start in the fall of 2008, potting a dozen points in his first 10 games. But a serious knee injury cost him three months of the season.

When he got back on the ice, he clearly wasn't the same player. He finished with four points in 16 playoff outings.

This year, the Maple Ridge, B.C., product put up 100 points in just 62 games and helped lead Team Canada to world junior gold.

"Whenever you go through a tough year like that, it makes you stronger mentally," Sonne said. "I think that really helped me out this year through the 72-game grind, the world junior pressure and all the hockey I played.

"When you're not able to skate for as long as I was (injured), you really appreciate (the award) that much more."

Sonne hasn't completely avoided the injury bug this season.

He sat out the series-clinching win over Edmonton in the opening round and also missed the first three games of the second-round sweep of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The Hitmen, coming off their second nine-day break of the post-season, are eager to drop the puck for tonight's Eastern Conference final against the Brandon Wheat Kings (7 p.m., Fan 960).

"I've been waiting for awhile," said Sonne, who has four points in as many playoff outings. "I wish it could have started earlier."

Even though the Hitmen didn't miss a beat without the offensive catalyst, overage winger Kyle Bortis is happy to have Sonne back on his line.

"We missed him a bit at Christmas, but we found a way to win games," Bortis said. "Losing him here in the playoffs was a challenge, but it gave other players an opportunity to step up and show what they have.

"Sonne and myself, we have good chemistry.

"He's the type of player who goes to the hard areas, and it's easy for me because I just have to find him."

After back-to-back sweeps over the Oil Kings and Hurricanes, the Hitmen are expecting a much stiffer test from the high-powered Wheat Kings.

"They've proven themselves as an honest, hard-working team," Sonne said. "Ever since I've been in the league, they've been a tough team to play against. I expect a really hard-fought series."


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