Craig McCabe doesn’t mind throwing his weight around.
The 19-year-old defenseman for the Ottawa Junior Senators likes to play a physical brand of hockey.
But, don’t get the idea that the 5-10, 165-pound McCabe is just an enforcer. Playing solid, fundamental defense comes first for the native of Webster, New York. While he plays an aggressive game, his first thoughts are being disciplined, holding his position and getting between the puck and his man to break up a play. However, he added, “If the big hit is open, I’ll take it.”
McCabe has learned to harness his aggressive play and play within the team concept of defense with Ottawa. “I’m playing smarter, instead of just running around the ice,” he explained.
“Craig is still a work in progress for us,” said Junior Senators GM/Coach Martin Dagenais. “He’s improved tremendously since his rookie season, but we think there’s still a lot of room for him to get better. He can skate, move pucks, and he’s extremely physical. You need players like that come playoff time and we’ll need him to be at the top of his game if we want to a chance to win the Bogart Cup.”
McCabe came to the Junior Senators via a camp he attended with his older brother, Teddy, a Central Canada Hockey League veteran himself, who played for the Cumberland Grads. Dagenais and his staff liked what they saw in the American player and last year, he was off to Canada.
McCabe noted that having an older brother pave the way made the adjustment of living away from home in another country and playing at a higher level of hockey easier for him. He knew what to expect.
“It wasn’t too big of an adjustment,” he explained. “The players are bigger, stronger and faster.”
His experience of living in Canada has been nothing but positive. And being one of just two Americans currently on the team has never been a problem.
“It’s cool,” he said. “Hockey is their big sport. Everyone has been so nice and I love the city. All the guys were very welcoming,” he remarked. “I’m just happy to be here.”
McCabe comes from an ice hockey family. “I started playing hockey in the backyard rink at two,” he remarked. “It’s a big family sport.”
Teddy, also a defenseman, is currently playing Division III college hockey in the US with SUNY Geneseo. The younger McCabe started out as a forward before switching to the back line four years ago where his physical play is better put to use.
Playing for the Junior Senators has made McCabe a better player and, as a result, he’s likely to join his brother playing college hockey after his CCHL career. He credits the Senators with making him a better all around player.
“I’ve improved in all aspects of the game,” he pointed out.
While being a force on back line, McCabe has three goals and eight assists. One area where he said he has to improve his game is on offense.
“I have to work on my scoring,” he said.
The Junior Senators are in the midst of a big season. They are in first place in the CCHL’s Yzerman Division by 14 points (leading second place Hawkesbury, 57-43) with an outstanding 27-5-1-2 record as of Dec. 9. It appears that the Junior Senators have the makings of what could be a magical year going.
“It’s crazy, we just keep finding ways to win,” McCabe said.
McCabe and Co. hope it never stops.