Pro Debut: Connor Hvidston
Connor Hvidston thought his season was over on March 26 following the Broncos loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Two days later, however, he received a call informing him that he wasn't done quite yet.
"I had no idea," he said of going to the American Hockey League. "My agent gave me a call about two days after our season was done telling me that they wanted me to come down. You're certainly disappointed not to make the playoffs and saying bye to all the boys, but you're also excited to get the chance to keep playing for a little while longer."
Hvidston made a quick trip home to Tisdale to bring his stuff back before hopping on an early morning flight out of Saskatoon the next day.
He travelled to San Diego to meet his new teammates and watched the Gulls host the Tucson Roadrunners on March 29 before getting a chance to hit the ice with them.
"It's definitely a little bit faster," he said. "You can just tell it's more pro. You really have to make your passes and keep your feet moving. It took a little bit to get comfortable but it wasn't too bad."
He said the transition was made easier having met a handful of the players during Ducks training camp in the fall.
Two days after getting to San Diego, Hvidston jumped on the team's plane as they went to Iowa for a pair of games against the Iowa Wild. He found out the next morning that he would be making his AHL debut that night.
"Definitely super excited," he said. "There's some nerves too, but I was really looking forward to playing my first game so I would say there was more excitement than nerves."
After two games in Iowa and two more at home, Hvidston suited up for his fifth game on April 8 against the Calgary Wranglers. Exactly 7:30 into the first period, Hvidston threw a puck on net from the left faceoff circle that snuck under the blocker of Oscar Dansk, giving Hvidston his first professional goal.
Hvidston usually keeps his goal celebrations in check, but couldn't help but show a little emotion after that one.
"I wasn't really expecting it to go in because it wasn't the cleanest shot," he said. "It kind of just snuck under his arm. I was a little surprised but when I realized it, I was really excited. I don't even think I meant to raise my arms in the air, they just ended up there."
Being an 18-year-old lining up against players in their mid to late 20's, Hvidston had to make the adjustment of going up against stronger competition than he was used to.
"It's definitely a step up," he said. "Guys are a lot stronger all over the ice. Whether that's along the boards or on faceoffs. You just have to stick to what you know. There are strategies you can try and use, but you just have to try as hard as you can and see what comes out of it."
Preparing to move to Florida for the summer to train, Hvidston says there are lessons he can take from his seven-game audition in the AHL into his third season with the Broncos.
"I want to try and stick to that pace," he said. "I don't want to bring my pace down just because I'm playing in junior again. I want to be able to keep that professional pace no matter where I'm playing. Those games showed me that I definitely need to get stronger. That was really put into perspective for me during my time there."
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Western Hockey League Stories from May 30, 2023
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- Pats Sign 2023 Third-Round Pick Klassen - Regina Pats
- Officiating Crew Revealed for the 2023 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia - WHL
- Game on: Registration Now Open for NHL Street in Victoria - Victoria Royals
- Pro Debut: Connor Hvidston - Swift Current Broncos
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