Dauphin detour worth trip

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

The arena may have changed, but the goal remains the same for Joe Caligiuri.

Heading into his final season of junior hockey eligibility, the goaltender from Winnipeg planned on being back with the Prince George Cougars for his fourth season in the Western Hockey League.

But when the Cougars brought in James Priestner in late August, Caligiuri was shown the door and quickly re-adjusted his sights by signing with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

While Caligiuri won't be playing in the WHL, he'll have plenty of opportunity to showcase his talents, as the Kings will play host to the 2010 Royal Bank Cup in May.

But make no mistake, Caligiuri's immediate goal is to end his junior career on top.

"I've never won anything in my junior career," Caligiuri said earlier this week in a telephone interview from Dauphin. "I've only been here for a couple of weeks, but the city is definitely excited and the guys are excited. It's going to be a special year."

Caligiuri spoke with Kings head coach and general manager Marlin Murray a few times during the off-season about the prospect of going to Dauphin, but admits a discussion with former Brandon Wheat Kings teammate and former Kings sniper Bryan Kauk helped him decide to play in the MJHL.

"I knew a couple of guys who played their 20-year-old seasons in Dauphin and they had nothing but positive things to say about the way they were treated here and things like that," said Caligiuri, who has turned aside 61 of 66 shots to win his first two MJHL starts. "That definitely helped me confirm my decision to come here. I want to go on and play at the CIS level next year. Having the RBC is a big part of it too and to get some exposure from that tournament will be good, for sure."

Caligiuri, who is only two years removed from a 30-win season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, is excited to get as much work as he can after spending most of last season as the Cougars back-up to fellow Winnipegger Kevin Armstrong.

"I just want to provide some consistent goaltending," said Caligiuri, who will share the crease with Brett Willows. "That's what a winning team needs if they want to go far."

Murray expects Caligiuri to provide solid netminding and provide leadership throughout the season.

"He just brings a presence, he's a big-game goaltender," said Murray. "He's been a real good fit here. He's a hard worker, a very good teammate. He's an easy guy to get along with and he's going to be a big part of our hockey club and our success."

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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