Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Happy Camper

It is still sinking in for Tysen Dowzak as he gets used to the idea of being a WHL champion. Since his return to the WHL, Dowzak has been saying at every chance he could get that he wanted to win a WHL Championship.

Now that the Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets have that WHL Championship there is a new goal according to Dowzak; a Memorial Cup.

The overage 6'5 Ranger prospect was kind enough to give us a call and talk to us about everything that was going on as of late.

What stood out for us in this telephone call was how much more mature, Tysen was in talking about things. We saw a player who was truly about being a team player and how much everyone was working together.

There was more confidence in himself that what we had seen before and that we believe is because Tysen sees what happens when he works hard and the rewards of such hard work.

PP: So Tysen anything new happening to you as of late?

Tysen Dowzak: (laughing) yea a couple of things, getting ready to fly to Rimouski for the Memorial Cup.

PP: Tell us what the last couple of days have been like for you and the Rockets?

TD: It has been a bit of a whirlwind for us, getting a chance to take in what we have have been able to accomplish and it is really something special. You know I am pretty glad I was able to be a part of this.

PP: This has been quite the year for you; undrafted free agent who earns Ranger contract, gets to play in Hartford and Charlotte and then back to Kelowna where you win a WHL Championship and now have a chance at a Memorial Cup. Are you pinching yourself thinking this is all one big dream?

TD: You know this has been the result of a lot of hard work, a lot of extra hours put in to make this happen. My parents have been there throughout everything and I can not thank them enough. I am just so happy that things are starting to go in the right direction.

PP: Were you aware that you were the only one with a Ranger connection still playing anywhere?

TD: Yes I was thinking about it as I thought it was kind of ridiculous; that out of all those people it is just me who is still playing on the ice. It is though kind of cool though as it tells you about the team we got up here in Kelowna.

PP: OK then how about we talk about the Kelowna Rockets then and what you just went though. You started with Kamloops your rival and you did not have much trouble with them.

TD: With Kamloops we wound up playing (a total of) 13 times this season and we beat them all 13 times. It wasn't 13 easy wins but we matched up well with them.

PP: But from that point on you and the Rockets were facing teams seeded higher than you and favored to beat you.

TD: Yea nobody really thought we could beat any of the others (Tri-City, Vancouver and Calgary). It was nobody giving us any hope to make it out of the conference left alone to the league final. We were able to knock off 3 really good teams here. It tells you a lot about the character of our team.

PP: Well then let us talk about the character of one defender for the Kelowna Rockets. By the time you got to play against Vancouver, this was not the Tysen Dowzak we knew. What is different today than say a couple of months ago?

TD: A lot of it is being the playoffs, that you have to bring the game every night. Another part was the mental edge that you need to have to win.

PP: But every time we turned around it was Dowzak with the clear, Dowzak with the hit or blocked shot or even Dowzak taking shots on goal.

TD: Again it is about the playoffs, it is about getting the dirt under your fingernails and working harder in order to be successful. You know it is not in my character to be that guy away from the rink but on the ice I realize that is what I have to do to help us win.

PP: Take us though the playoffs then at what point did you think "Hey we could win this all"?

TD: Against Vancouver, once we beat them it did not matter who we faced. We knew that Calgary was a very good team but after all we had been though; after the overtime win over Vancouver in Game 6 it was almost like a plan of destiny. It just felt great going into the finals.

I was confident just like our entire team was confident and we were able to come away with the win.

PP: Relive the moment (8:13 of the first OT in Game 6) when you won the WHL Championships, the Tysen Dowzak grin was even larger than we had ever seen it before.

TD: Winning a championship; well that is something very special. It does not happen very often so when you get that chance and I could not ask to be around a better group of guys like this, a better group of friends. It is the highlight of my hockey career so far it is just so terrific a feeling.

PP: The one thing that has been consistent about you throughout everything has been you always saying that you wanted to win a WHL championship with this team. You have reached that goal so you must have this huge sense of satisfaction now?

TD: Exactly, you know you play hockey to win, that is the goal and to have fun doing that. Yes it is definitely satisfying but at the same time I have turned the page in an awful hurry as now the goal is Rimouski.

PP: Fair enough so let us talk about the Memorial Cup; fair enough to say that Kelowna is not going to sneak up on anyone now? No more hidden underdog as you were in the WHL right?

TD: We are going to be going up against some really good teams, Windsor, Rimouski and whoever comes out of the "Q" league (note this took place before Game 7 of the QMJHL finals so it will be the Drummondville Voltigeurs). I still think people think of us as a bit of an underdog but their eyes will be a little more open now after we beat Calgary who was the top ranked team in all of the CHL.

PP: How some of the personal highlights for you. Think (Mikael) Backlund cost you a goal against Vancouver? (Note it was the series winning goal that defected in off Backlunds hand)

TD: (laughing) You know I really don't care how it went in just that it did and we won. It doesn't matter if Backsy scores or I score as long as someone on my club got that game winning goal. To win that game and then the league finals in the same fashion (both series ended on an OT goal) is unbelieveable. It is just pretty exciting

PP: So what have the Rocket coaching staff told you about the teams you will be facing in Rimouski?

TD: Not much as we are going to start working on that today (Tuesday), we are going to get some video from 2-3 clubs to learn what their tendencies are and try to build a gameplan around that.

PP: We called the Kelowna Rockets "Big Bang Hockey"; is that a fair thing to say?

TD: Yea we are a real physical hockey club, it is something we really need to focus on. When you watch games 4 and 5 in the league finals we did not play our game and Calgary was able to get to the open areas and make plays. We just have to be defensively minded, play OUR physical game and stick to it.

PP: Tysen Dowzak appears happy with "Big Bang Hockey" though?

TD: Oh yea it is my envoironment, I love those 2-1, 3-2 games.

PP: In watching you play though it is as if you are at your happiest as we saw you make 2 key defensive plays on the same shift and there was this big grin on your face when the shift was over.

TD: Yes that is my game, it is where I feel the most comfortable, it is my best aspect of my game and it comes down to a lot of hard work, grinding things out and it is part of the game I enjoy doing the most.

PP: So are you satisfied now that you got the WHL title or do you now want the Memorial Cup too?

TD: Oh no doubt, I want that Memorial Cup.

PP: Ranger fans will have their first chance to see Tysen Dowzak and the Kelowna Rockets this week on the NHL Network so how about giving them a scouting report on the Rockets?

TD: The Kelowna Rockets they can play any style of game you want in order to win a hockey game. We have a lot of talented and quick forwards who are very skilled around the front of the net. Then we have some solid defensemen on the back end who can shut down the other teams top forwards and keep the goal clear. We have a great goalie in (Mark) Guggenberger and I expect the Rockets to do pretty well.

PP: Will you ever be able to shut the critics up by scoring a goal?

TD: I thought I had one in the 3rd period in game 6 of the league finals so I think I am just snakebit now. It is just a matter of time before I get one. However the only real thing that matters to me is keeping pucks out of my net, do that and I am happy.

Besides it is my defense that the Rangers picked me up for not my goal scoring (no goals since 2007).

PP: Last one Tysen, think back over everything you have been though this season. Was coming back to the WHL worth it for you? Any regrets?

TD: No not at all; to be able to come back year and have another year to work on my development was well worth. I have a lot of very good friends here in Kelowna, there are a lot of good people with this organization. It was definitely worth it and now I have a WHL title too.


When I transcribed this, it dawned on me in looking back over the year of watching Tysen Dowzak just how much he has grown as a player. Back in October, Dowzak was a long shot project who was a Ranger gamble.

After being a healthy scratch at mid-season, it was a wonder if he would get out of the ECHL. Over the last 2 months I have gotten to watch Dowzak grow as a player and as a person. He said in February that he wasn't a goon that he was more than that.

In watching his WHL playoff run, it turns out he has been right all along. When Dowzak has played his defensive game going, we see 1994 Ranger Jay Wells. A steady blueliner who played a clean but very physical game.

Not a bad player to take after.

(Dowzak courtesy of Regan Bartel)

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