Sports

Ben Street hits the road with NHL's Calgary Flames

Ben Street stickhandles past a San Antonio Rampage defender in a game with the Abbotsford Heat. The Coquitlam forward was called up this week by the NHL Calgary Flames. - John Morrow/Black Press
Ben Street stickhandles past a San Antonio Rampage defender in a game with the Abbotsford Heat. The Coquitlam forward was called up this week by the NHL Calgary Flames.
— image credit: John Morrow/Black Press

Coquitlam’s Ben Street has been selected to play in next month’s AHL All-Star Classic.

The Abbotsford Heat sniper is honoured by the selection but hopes the Feb. 12 tilt between the AHL stars and the Swedish professional team Farjestad BK is one game he’ll have to miss.

“Obviously it’s a great honour to be selected for the all-star game. A lot of my family’s from St. John’s [Nfld.] where the game is so they’re pretty excited,” said Street from a hotel in Raleigh, N.C. while he awaited the arrival of his teammates with the Calgary Flames.

“But like you say, I would much rather miss that game for being in the NHL and I don’t think they would be too upset with me if I was in the NHL and couldn’t make that game.”

Street arrived in Raleigh Sunday morning, only hours after he notched the overtime winner and was selected first star in the Heat’s 3-2 win over San Antonio Rampage Saturday night. He joined the Flames for their Monday night clash with the Carolina Hurricanes.

“It’s nice to get recognized, to get called up. I think the work sort of starts now,” said the 26-year-old. “I kind of had that experience a bit last year when I could play a few games. It was my first few games and I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Street logged five minutes of ice time, going 2-2 in the face-off circle, in the Flames 2-0 win over Carolina. He played seven minutes Tuesday in Nashville during the Flames 4-2 loss to the Predators.

Street played six games with the Flames last season and was called up to Calgary for another eight games at the start of the 2013 season, picking up an assist during each stint.

“I’ve only played 14 games, but a little bit of the craziness that you get with playing in your first few games in the NHL has kind of worn out. Now my goal is just to make the most of my opportunities and try and stick as long as I can,” said Street, who modelled his game after local products Joe Sakic and Paul Kariya growing up.

While Street still expects to have a few butterflies when he takes the ice with the Flames, he thinks his previous stints in the NHL have given him some confidence and let him know what to expect when he hits the ice.

“I’ve played a few games so I know the speed of the game. I’ve played against some good players so it takes some of the shock and awe out of being out there with guys who you’ve been watching on TV for a long time.”

The Flames have struggled this season, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference with 36 points in 45 games. Their 101 goals scored ranks ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres.

“I think Calgary is obviously struggling a little bit offensively right now so if I can chip in offensively I think that will make a good case,” said Street. “I think they’re going to want me to be a guy who brings energy and disrupts things in the forecheck but keeps everything safe and secure in the defensive zone. I think if I just play my all-around game to the best of my ability I should be OK.”

Street has had no problem finding the net this year, putting up 17 goals and 33 points in 31 games to lead the Heat in scoring. It’s a big jump from the 15 goals and 37 points he compiled in 69 games with Abbotsford last year.

“I think it’s a testament to a lot of my teammates in Abbotsford. We’ve got a very skilled team there,” said Street, the AHL’s player of the month for November. “It makes getting points a lot easier when there are people all around you that are very talented and can make plays.”

It has been a long and winding road that Street has followed to reach his dream of playing in the NHL.

After two years with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks, Street moved on to play for the University of Wisconsin Badgers where he was part of the 2006 national championship team. His pro career began in 2010 with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, enjoying a career year in 2011/12 when he racked up 27 goals and 57 points.

Street sees the time he’s spent toiling in the minor leagues as a benefit as he tries to crack an NHL roster as a 26-year-old.

“I think it helps that it’s not my rookie season in the pro ranks. I’ve played in some different pro styles with some different types of coaches so I think that helps when you go into all sorts of different situations that you might be thrown into,” said the 5’11” 197-lb. forward. “I don’t think I’m a wily veteran or anything yet but I think some of the experiences I’ve had will help me in the upcoming games.”

Street said playing in Abbotsford has let him stay close to friends and family, even being able to head over to his mom and dad’s for Sunday dinners.

“As nice as that sounds, though, I definitely don’t want to be in Abbotsford. I’d much rather be in Calgary.”

sports@tricitynews.com

 

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