Coming into training camp, there was a reasonable expectation that Jessyko Bernard would be an offensive factor for the rebuilding Halifax Mooseheads. But just a week into the season, he was knocked out of the lineup by younger rookies and found himself fighting just to stay out of the press box.
He’s only recently started earning a regular role again.
The 18-year-old winger has stepped up since over-ager Linden Bahm broke his wrist, skating on the second line with Brent Andrews and Gerrad Grant heading into this weekend’s home games against the Bathurst Titan on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the P.E.I. Rocket on Sunday at 4 p.m.
“I told myself I had to pick it up and give whatever I’ve got, skate harder, finish checks, do whatever I can,” he said.
The Mooseheads told their players in the off-season they wanted them in better physical shape, but Bernard didn’t impress them in that department upon arrival at camp.
After being benched, the six-foot-two Moncton native realized he needed to shape up or he’d be shipped out.
He weighed 216 pounds at training camp but has lost 14 pounds since and said he has more energy and endurance in games.
“That was one of the reasons I was scratched — they weren’t happy with my weight,” Bernard said. “I just said, ‘I’ve got to lose that weight and get into better shape.’”
Bernard has six goals and five assists for 11 points in 41 games and leads all Halifax forwards in hits per game.
He’s hoping to finish strong and certainly doesn’t have any plans of being yanked out of the lineup down the stretch.
“That’s always in the back of my mind,” Bernard said.
“I don’t want to be a healthy scratch again because it’s not fun. I have to give everything I’ve got every night.”