Mixed feelings? What mixed feelings?
Aaron Borejko admitted to feeling a hint of sadness at leaving the Kelowna Rockets for the Red Deer Rebels, but those sentiments clearly took a back seat to the excitement in the Edmonton native’s voice just two hours after stepping off an airliner in Calgary.
“It feels good. It’s a fresh start and I think I’m going to get a good opportunity to play here,” said Borejko, prior to his first practice session with his new team on Thursday at the Kinex.
“It was sad to leave Kelowna, but I’m close to home now and this is a good organization. I’m ready to go.”
Borejko, acquired from the Rockets on Wednesday in exchange for a fourth-round pick in next year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft, was playing as a “fourth or fifth” defenceman this season in Kelowna and appeared in all 11 games.
“But I wasn’t getting any power-play time. Coming in here, I’m just hoping to prove that I can play on the special teams,” he said. “I feel that I have those qualities and I’m hoping to show that to the coaches and that they can put some faith in me that way. We’ll see how it goes.”
Borejko certainly won’t be short on minutes as a member of the Rebels, who have lost Nick Bell indefinitely to an ankle injury suffered during Tuesday’s home-ice loss to the Calgary Hitmen, and even with their new acquisition have only five defenceman with Alex Petrovic still out with a high ankle sprain.
“I’m relishing the fact that I get to come here and play a lot. It’s exciting for me,” said Borejko.
“I was trying to play as well as possible in Kelowna so that I could get more minutes, and I’ll get that extra ice time here as long as I play well.”
The 18-year-old wasn’t a major player with the 2008-09 version of the Rockets, who captured the WHL championship and were Memorial Cup runners-up. But Borejko insisted that the entire experience — especially with the likes of defencemen Tyler Myers and Tysen Dowzak as teammates — made him a better player.
“I had a diminished role last year, but you learn a lot from watching those guys play and practising with them,” said Borejko. “And the experience of going through the WHL playoffs and going to Rimouski (the Quebec site of the Memorial Cup) was huge. You learn how to win.”
The six-foot, 205-pound rearguard received some positive feedback from his family following Wednesday’s trade announcement.
“It’s really nice being this close to home,” he said. “My parents are really happy about this, they’ll be able to see me play all the time. I’m excited, I love Alberta and Red Deer is a great place.”
Borejko is one of four Edmonton and area players on the Rebels roster, although he hadn’t met any of them prior to Thursday.
“I remember playing against Alex Petrovic one year, but I don’t really know him,” said the Rockets’ fifth-round pick in the 2006 bantam draft, who was greeted by several of his new teammates on Thursday afternoon.
“Everyone I’ve met has been really friendly so far and I’m excited to get to know them all,” said Borejko, who will make his Rebels debut tonight against the Tigers in Medicine Hat.