Wilkins eyes NCAA scholarship while competing for 73’s
For Gambo's Travis Wilkins, a fresh start is all he wanted.
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NEW COLOURS — Gambo’s Travis Wilkins is now competing for the Kemptville 73’s after being dealt there from the Kanata Stallions in September.
The experienced Central Junior A Hockey League goaltender was scheduled to suit up for his third season with the Kanata Stallions, but something inside of him was dreaming of a fresh start.
So, Wilkins expressed his desire to be traded from the Stallions, and that request was granted prior to the start of the new CJHL season.
In early September 2011, while staying with his good friend and fellow Stallion Adam Fulton in Kanata, Wilkins received the phone call he was expecting.
"We were both in training camp with the Stallions and he was letting me stay at his house until I figured out if I was getting traded or staying with the team," said Wilkins. "I was nervous but excited at the same time to join a new team. I was disappointed to be leaving Kanata because of all of my close teammates and friends, but I was looking forward to a fresh start. I knew the trade was happening for about a month or so, so I had a lot of time to get prepared for the phone call that let me know I was going to be playing for another team this season."
With his new team, the Kemptville 73's, Wilkins joins a young squad loaded with rookies. In Wilkins, the team felt it had the experienced goaltender it needed to stay competitive in the league.
"The deal for Wilkins happened quickly and we could not pass on the opportunity to bring in an experienced goaltender," general manager and coach Pat Malloy said in a release to the Kemptville EMC newspaper.
On paper, the 73's have struggled, but not because of goaltending woes. The 73's are the lowest-scoring team in the CJHL, and its leading goal scorer, Josh Pitt, is the only player in double-digit goals with 28 in 42 games played.
However, Wilkins has taken the team's woeful record (8-35-1-4) in stride, saying he's dedicated to doing what he can to help the young team make positive strides in the future. "It is very hard to win when your team is struggling to score. We are currently the lowest scoring team in the league and that has been one of the biggest factors as to why we are struggling getting wins. We have lost 17 or 18 one-goal games, and when you factor that in, if we win at least half of those games our season would look a lot different," said Wilkins. "I just think that we need to keep working hard and improve our defensive zone coverage because the best offense is a good defence. I believe if we improve that part of our game we can start to win a few of those close games that have haunted us this season."
“I want to play very high intensity and competitive hockey, and give myself the best chance possible at receiving an NCAA scholarship in the next year.” Travis Wilkins
Wilkins has started the majority of the team's games this year, collecting a record of 4-20-1-3.
Rookie teammate Ryan Mulder has also seen time for the 73's, putting up a 4-12 record.
Wilkins was getting the majority of starts until a Nov. 15 concussion left him on the sidelines for 10 games.
Now that he's healthy, the 73's are once again leaning on Wilkins, but the Gambo native knows what could happen if his play drops and Mulder continues to improve.
"It is always nice to have a guy behind you that is capable of coming in and steal a game for the team. I am back and healthy now, and have played 10 of our last 11 games, and if I am healthy for the rest of the season I expect to be playing in the majority of our remaining games," said Wilkins. "The coach has a lot of confidence in both me and Mulder, and he isn't afraid to play either of us. However, Mulder is a first-year guy, so the coaching staff tends to lean and put a bit of extra pressure on me. Having a guy like Mulder on the team is good for me because it makes me work harder and push myself more, because I know he is capable of taking the number one spot away from me."
Despite the tough season the 73's are having, Wilkins continues to benefit from playing Junior A hockey in Ontario.
He's getting plenty of exposure in the CJHL, and although he said he has thought about playing senior hockey when he gets older, Wilkins is more concerned with the now, and his short-term goals.
"I want to play very high intensity and competitive hockey, and give myself the best chance possible at receiving an NCAA scholarship in the next year. Also, by staying away and playing in Ottawa, I am giving myself a lot of exposure to NCAA and pro scouts," said Wilkins. "I have thought about playing senior when I am older, but right now I am focused on getting an NCAA scholarship and playing well for my team in Kemptville at the Junior A level."