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PUCK PURSUIT – Simon Isabelle, centre, pursues a Union player in a game Oct. 15 in Rochester, N.Y. Isabelle has been named Atlantic Rookie of the Week twice. Photo courtesy TONI DUNCAN

Yukon native wins multiple Rookie of the Week awards

Simon Isabelle continues to have success wherever he goes.

By Morris Prokop on November 14, 2022

Simon Isabelle continues to have success wherever he goes.

Isabelle, 21, plays for the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers in NCAA Division 1 hockey in Rochester, New York. The Tigers have started the season 10-2 and are on a seven-game winning streak.

Isabelle was named Atlantic Rookie of the Week two out of the last three weeks. He has three goals and four assists for 10 points. Isabelle has 19 shots on goal and is an impressive +7 in only 12 games.

He had the primary assist on the game-winning goal, blocked two shots and won 7-of-12 face-offs in a 4-3 comeback victory at AIC Nov. 5.

He also took four shots and won eight face-offs in a 3-2 victory as the Tigers completed the sweep of the Yellow Jackets on Nov. 6.

Isabelle won the award two weeks ago after logging three assists during the Tigers’ two-game sweep of visiting Holy Cross Oct. 29-30 as well.

Isabelle’s father Patrick is surprised but impressed with his son’s success.

“Simon was a late bloomer but to perform like that – just to play in the NCAA in Division 1 is quite an accomplishment and getting a scholarship there – so he’s studying in engineering as well … it’s great representing the Yukon and when he plays on TV they often make comments about being from Whitehorse, Yukon there.”

“It’s unexpected success,” he added.

For his part, Simon said he’s really happy about his early-season success.

“I’ve happy about the way I’ve been playing lately too. My confidence is going up, so I think that’s why I’ve been playing so well lately.”

The elder Isabelle said that having fun has been the key to his son’s success.

“I started to coach (him) when he was four … as a dad I’m always trying to be positive and always bring forth that having fun is important. I think that made a big difference for him, as most parents usually put pressure on their kids. I try to take the pressure out and have fun and I think that’s why – when he started playing hockey, he was the best in this town and then he grew later, like, he was small. When he started growing up, that’s when he had most of his success there … I always emphasized having fun and doing your best. It’s just been amazing progress … we’re really proud.”

Simon is obviously a disciple of his father’s wise words.

“I think I’ve just been doing the right things during the week in practice and off the ice, too. Just having fun on the ice, too, like, it’s a big thing for me, just having fun on the ice when I’m playing or when I’m practicing. That’s what’s always been working for me.”

For Simon’s season, it’s so far, so good.

“I think it’s going good,” he said. “Start of the season, it was for sure a little adjustment because the level of hockey is obviously better than in junior but I’ve been adapting and my confidence – I’ve been playing with more confidence, so lately it’s been going well for me.”

Of course, Simon has faced challenges at this higher level.

“I think, first of all, with school. Like, for the past two years, I was going to school, but with COVID, classes were online and I was only doing one or two classes a semester and now that everything’s back to normal and I have to go full-time to school, so that’s been something I’ve had to adapt to.

“For on the ice … everything is just faster. The execution, the speed of the guys, everything is just faster but I like to play fast, so I think that’s why I’ve been adapting fast.”

So far, Simon is able to balance school and hockey.

“The school makes sure our schedule works with the hockey … it’s been a lot of work for sure, especially (since) I’m in engineering but I like my classes and I’m having fun, so everything’s been going well.”

Patrick Isabelle described his son’s strengths.

“He’s a playmaker … he’s very skilled with the puck and I think that came from when he was young … I had one of my friends who was a skills coach, a good friend of mine. He coaches guys in the NHL. He started working with him when he was young, so I think his skill with the puck is what makes him … he’s really strong on the puck … that’s why they recruited him and that’s why he’s having lots of ice time this year … as well as having success at school. He’s in engineering this year.”

Frank Borduas is a skills coach who works with high-end players and taught Simon at the age of 12.

“I think that helps as well, to have a coach that works on your individual skills,” said the elder Isabelle.

“He’s really strong on face-offs and that really helps, to be above-average on face-offs since he’s been young,” added Isabelle.

Of course, with young players, there’s always room for improvement.

“I think he needs to keep on working hard on his schooling,” said his father. “He needs to get stronger. That’s the main thing. If you play against guys that are older than you.

“Keep having fun with the game and good things happen. We never expected that he was gonna play college hockey. Then he got recruited in Junior A. We never thought he was gonna play Junior A. And then the university approached him and they gave him (a scholarship). We don’t pay anything. They pay for everything. So that was another surprise, so he’s been surprising us, overachieving what our expectations were, so if he keeps on doing what he’s been doing who knows?

“He’s not probably going to play in the NHL … but he might get the chance to play professional hockey after at (a) different level … if that’s what he wants to, or if he wants to work as an engineer, no pressures. Parents are not putting any pressure on him. They’re just always bringing out the positive.”

The elder Isabelle said “I watch every game because it’s all live-streamed.”

Isabelle’s parents have also been able to watch him play live.

“We went and watched him in Colorado Springs two weeks ago, which was fun. He’s coming to the Yukon for Christmas and then we’re going to watch him in Arizona, cause they travel lots with the college hockey there in the states.”

The younger Isabelle wants to gain strength and develop a heavier shot.

“I’d say being stronger, it can be like, battles one-on-one and also on my shot. When I shoot, I want to shoot it like … a stronger shot.”

As for how far he wants to take his career, Simon said “After my four years (at RIT) I would, for sure, try and want to go pro, like, if it’s here in America or it can also be in Europe but I would for sure want to continue and play pro.”

Patrick Isabelle added, “”I think he’s got a chance if he keeps on progressing to maybe play in the AHL, American Hockey League. I think that’d be reachable for him … or the East Coast (Hockey League, or ECHL) … I think he would like to go to Europe, play in Europe but I think he stands a chance to play professional hockey … when he gets out of university … he’s always been overachieving, so I don’t know what he’s gonna do next but we’re hoping he’s still gonna have fun with the game … enjoy the game and be a proud Yukoner and represent Whitehorse.”

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