Steeler snipes, snips

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

When Taylor Dickin and Craig Simchuk are working together in the warehouse at Kern-Hill Furniture, the topic of fighting comes up often.

"We do a lot of trash talking at work," Dickin said.

Dickin, you see, is a centre with the Selkirk Steelers. He's one of the top snipers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this season, with 30 goals and 58 points in only 37 games.

Simchuk, meanwhile, is the third-leading scorer with the Winnipeg Saints, the Steelers' archrival.

Dickin and Simchuk grew up together in Winnipeg's North Kildonan neighbourhood and spent many a winter nights on the outdoor rink at Gateway Recreation Centre.

Now, however, they're rivals.

Fighting for the Addison Division title.

No time for friendship once the puck drops.

And should a line brawl break out and everyone else is dancing ...?

"We've already talked about that," Dickin said with a chuckle on Friday, shortly before he scored two goals and added an assist in Selkirk's 7-0 shellacking of the OCN Blizzard. "We always create scenarios. If this happened, would we fight? If that happened, would we fight? Stuff like that."

And ...?

"We've said yeah, we would," Dickin said. "It's never really come to that, but it's funny just to talk about."

It's humorous because Dickin and Simchuk are more into scoring goals than dropping the mitts. Dickin, especially, has blossomed into an offensive star for the perennial powerhouse Steelers.

Not only does the 6-foot-2, 190-pound centre have a large frame that he sometimes throws around, but he's fast. He is most proud of his vision on the ice, and he has a penchant for scoring timely goals.

He displayed that knack in the spring when the Steelers trailed the Saints 5-4 with less than a minute to go in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Addison Division final.

The Steelers led the series 3-2 but were staring at Game 7 back at Winnipeg's home rink in the Dakota Community Club.

That's when Dickin stepped up, potting the game-tying goal with 44 seconds remaining. His teammate, Adam Larsen, finished off the Saints in double overtime.

"It was nice to be on the ice in the last minute of the game, six on five, and the coach is putting you out there in a key situation like that, looking for a goal," Dickin said.

His coach last year was Keith Cassidy, who resigned in the off-season to take over the Saints. Dickin's new bench boss in Selkirk, Ryan Smith, obviously feels the same way about the 20-year-old River East Collegiate grad as Cassidy did.

"I trust him in every situation, whether it's to score a goal or to stop a goal or take a draw or kill a penalty," Smith said. "He's an all-around good player. His work ethic is what sets him a little bit above some of the other elite guys.

"He really works hard, and even in practice he stands out. If you come watch our practice, I mean, sometimes I catch myself watching him. He does a lot of things right, and he's real nice to have on your team."

There is one part of Dickin's game that really impresses Smith.

Pick it up a notch

"He moves real well, especially through the neutral zone," he said. "That's where he seems to kind of pick it up a notch with the puck.

"A lot of guys -- even in the NHL -- slow down with the puck. He keeps his legs going, and he blows by guys in the neutral zone. With his size, it's hard to stop him once he gets a head of steam up."

Dickin's skills have made U.S. college scouts take notice. After the Canadian Junior A Hockey League Prospects Games in Winkler earlier this month, several U.S. talent evaluators remained in the province to catch him in action.

"It's definitely something I want to do," said Dickin, who will start taking classes at the University of Winnipeg in January. "I want to continue playing hockey and play hockey as long as I can. But I'd like to go to school eventually. It would be great to go to school and play hockey at the same time."

In the meantime, Dickin and the Steelers will attempt to hold off Simchuk and the Saints for the right to challenge the nearly unbeatable Dauphin Kings.

And if that means having to fight one another?

They've discussed it, but it sounds like a bridge a couple of scorers -- and good friends -- might not be willing to cross.

"We just kind of chirp at each other on the ice," Dickin said, "and afterwards we kind of laugh about it."

Dickin and the Steelers will be in action on Tuesday night at MTS Centre when they take on the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. Game time is 7:30.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos