Garrett Clarke was on the verge of throwing up when he stepped off the ice at the Halifax Forum on Monday.
“I wish I would have — I’d probably feel better,” said a weary Clarke, after being one of the last Halifax Mooseheads to emerge from the dressing room after practice.
“I’m just working as hard as I can and if I have to throw up at the end of it, I guess it shows I’m doing that.”
Clarke, the Mooseheads’ most productive defenceman at just 17 years of age, has plenty to prove this week after being benched for two periods on Saturday by head coach Cam Russell for his ongoing inability to stay disciplined.
He had taken eight minor penalties in four games, including two resulting in power-play goals and one that cost the Mooseheads an upset win over the Saint John Sea Dogs.
With the P.E.I. Rocket visiting the Metro Centre tonight at 7 p.m., Russell is making Clarke sweat.
While it’s probable Clarke will play, Russell called it a game-day decision.
Clarke has been doing whatever he can not to sit.
“I’m trying to show the coaches I’m committed,” said Clarke, a Moncton native. “I’m giving it my all in practice.”
The six-foot 198-pounder was drafted sixth overall in the 2008 QMJHL draft by the Lewiston Maineiacs before requesting and receiving a trade to Halifax last summer.
He has five goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 36 games, while his team-high 69 hits and 130 penalty minutes are an indication of the nasty physical edge he offers.
Clarke says he’s “pretty much on a first-name basis” with most of the referees in the league, but recognizes he’s been making it too easy for them to whistle him for calls.
“I start to get frustrated sometimes when stuff isn’t going my way,” he said. “I have to stay below that line, stay composed out there, and not take too many penalties.”
The Mooseheads have pegged Clarke and his rare skillset as a cornerstone for their future and hope he learns from this. Clarke says he’s ready to live up to their expectations.
“I’ve got to do it day-in, day-out and work my way back into one of the top spots on the team,” he said.