The myth of the sophomore slump has taken a few dents over the years, by any number of guys in any number of sports.
Corner Brook Royals forward Iain Pilgrim straight up shattered in with his play this season in the West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Following a rookie campaign that saw him produce a solid 14 points (6G-8A) in 17 games, the former Western King broke out with 23 points (10G-13A) in just 12 contests this season — one point behind Port aux Basques Mariners’ Jasper Dicks for the league and tied with Mariners’ Greg Edgar for second.
The 20-year-old from St. Anthony said he put on a bit of weight between seasons and felt a bit bigger and a bit stronger out on the ice.
He said, in any league, rookies tend to be feeling things out a little and just getting up to speed a lot of the time.
“I guess I’m a lot more comfortable now,” he said.
The Royals begin a best-of-seven WCSHL championship series 8 p.m. Friday night in Port aux Basques.
A hockey player since the age of four, Pilgrim actually skated at centre most of his competitive playing days, including with the major midget Kings, until lining up on the wing with the Royals.
For him, the sport is about the relationships built and the laughs had between games as much as it is about the games themselves.
“I have fun playing the game, but the social part — getting to know the guys and hanging out with them — that’s my favourite part.”
A self-described pass-first player, who likes to make a strong set-up play as much as snipe a goal, Pilgrim toiled with the Kings for three seasons, before attending a Maritime Junior Hockey League camp after being drafted into the league in the eighth round of the 2015 draft by the Truro Bearcats.
That life wasn’t for him, however, and he decided to come home to start his post-secondary education, first at Grenfell Campus, and now within the practical nursing program at College of the North Atlantic.
The real-life pressures of school likely make anything that happens on the ice a little less important, which can actually help his performance more than hinder it.
For instance, despite his regular season scoring highs, he’s been held to just one assist in four games in the playoffs so far.
But, as long as the team is rolling, that just rolls right off his back.
“There’s not so much pressure on me,” he said. “We’ve got guys who are tearing it up really good for us right now.”
And that will be the key for the speedy Royals — move their feet and move the puck, quickly, before the larger Mariners grind down the game and impose their will physically.
One bad bounce for the top-ranked Royals happened already, as Game 1 has to be held in Port aux Basques Friday night instead of Corner Brook, due to the Skate Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Synchronized Skating Championships occupying the Corner Brook Civic Centre Friday night and into Saturday.
Game 2 on Saturday night in the city is a go, with an 8:30 p.m. puck drop.
“I think we’re comfortable playing whether it’s home or away,” Pilgrim said of the situation. “It doesn’t really matter to us.”