By Tim Morris
While his senior classmates at St. Peter Catholic High School in Orleans, Ottawa are busy doing things all teenagers think about—dates, movies, video games, etc., Joshua Ward has other things to do. He’s a goalie for the Ottawa Junior Senators in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).
“It’s pretty cool telling me people who I play for,” the 17-year-old remarked. “My friends think it’s cool.”
Ward is having the time of his life putting on the pads for the defending CCHL champions. “I really like the team, I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a fun time playing in the big time. I think we have a chance to win it [league championship] again.”
Ward noted that the professional approach of the Junior Senators makes everyone realize they’re “closer to the dream” of playing at the highest level.
Still, playing with the Junior Senators was a big jump from midget hockey.
“It was a step up; the speed of the shots and players,” he remarked.
Attending an Ottawa 67’s conditioning camp in the summer was great preparation for the high school senior. It introduced him to the talent level of the CCHL and also caught the attention of the Junior Senators who signed the 6-4, 225-pound goalie for the 2018-19 season after the team’s Evaluation Camp back in June.
“To be considered at that level (CCHL) was really cool,” Ward said. “It’s really nice that coach (Martin) Dagenais has confidence in me.”
“I’m on the ice every day working with coaches who are there when you need them,” he added. Being on the ice with his teammates every day allows the Ottawa players to bond, Ward pointed out.
Things have worked out well for Ward and the Junior Senators. He’s appeared in 19 games and has a 10-5 record, a fine 2.58 goals against average and a save percentage of .907. He posted a shutout in his second start. Very good stats for a 17 year old rookie who’s learned a lot about himself this season.
“I’ve learned that I’m capable of doing more than I thought,” he said. “I underestimated myself a bit.”
Ward, who uses the butterfly-style, is a big target in goal and uses it to his advantage. “My size really helps and I’m mobile,” he pointed out. “I like to play the puck a lot.”
The biggest adjustment for Ward wasn’t anything physical, it was the overall speed of the action in front of him and anticipating plays.
“I’m playing better,” he noted. “I’m good at tracking the puck and reading plays better.”
With size, quickness and a great glove hand, Ward has fit right in with the Junior Senators and the CCHL. Playing between the pipes seems to have always been in the cards for Ward.
“Right from the start I figured it was the best position for me,” he recalled. “I tried playing other positions. I’m a big guy (6-4) and the goalie position suited me.”
Ward’s father and grandfather both played junior hockey and he’s following in their footsteps. His late grandfather Brian Kennedy was a goalie and his father, Ken Ward, was a forward who “liked to score goals.” His father helped him understand the mentality of a scorer and that has helped Ward as a goalie to anticipate what is going through the mind of a shooter.
The Junior Senators, who had a big turnover from last season’s Cup championships, started slowly as the newcomers took time to gel. But, now they are battling Hawkesbury Hawks, whom they’ve been chasing all year, and the much-improved Rockland Nationals for the Yzerman Division title.
Beyond the playoffs, Ward has his sights set on playing for a Division I college and getting an education that will carry him through life after hockey.