In his first year of Junior hockey, Cole Salmons skated away a champion.
The Quesnel Minor Hockey product, 18, started the year with the Junior-B Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, getting into nine games, but after some injury setbacks, he found himself off the team.
After he healed, he landed on the Hinton Timberwolves of the independent Junior-A level Canadian American Junior Hockey League (CAJHL) and both personally and as a team, they ripped to the finals. By the time the final buzzer sounded at the Dr. Duncan Murray Rec Centre on Hinton home ice, the score was 7-4 over the Vegreville Vipers and the Champions Cup was over their heads.
“It was pretty sweet, actually. Our team was pretty excited after the big year. I think we only lost like five games in the regular season. It was a really good team and a great group of guys,” Salmons said.
His teammates were from all over Canada, the United States and some European players as well.
“I’d say we were more of a skill team,” Salmons said, as opposed to a smothering trap-style team or a grinding team. “We had something like a plus-300 goal differential or something like that. It was pretty crazy. A lot of goals.”
He scored eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 27 games, through the regular season, so he was part of that offensive onslaught.
“I put up some good points, and it was a lot of fun switching around on the different lines,” said the six-foot forward.
Salmons credits the coach making those line switches, former Calgary Flames prospect, WHL 50-goal scorer, and Prince George Spruce Kings / Cariboo Cougars coach Ryan Howse, with a lot of the team’s success, and it was Howse who reached out to him to come join the Timberwolves.
“He was a good coach, an NHL draft pick, and he really knows his stuff,” said Salmons.
When the final minutes were ticking down in the championship game “it got pretty loud in there; it was crazy, actually.” He enjoyed the fans, his billet host Lee, and the whole town of Hinton from the time he arrived and pulled on the Timberwolves jersey.
Now he has an off-season to contemplate his hockey future.
“Maybe I could go to school and play hockey while I was in school, that would be pretty sweet,” he said. He’s only one year removed from graduating out of Correlieu Secondary School, and knows that he has only a small window of hockey opportunity, and needs some of that time to decide on a career path. He’ll be spending the summer working back in Quesnel, and he’ll be doing it as a champion.