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Soares makes a seamless transition to pro life

by Brian Compton

Josh Soares’ start has helped the Alaska Aces come out of the gate with a 10-5-1 record.
It can’t be easy to make the adjustment from college to professional hockey.

It certainly can’t be easy to make the adjustment of changing your address from Maine to Alaska, either.

But Josh Soares is doing just fine, thank you.

After a solid four-year career at the University of Maine, the 25-year-old rookie is off to a torrid start with the Alaska Aces. Sixteen games into his pro career, the Hamilton, Ontario native has 10 goals and nine assists.

“I couldn’t be asking for a better start right now,” Soares said. “Things have been going real well. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to score and help produce for my team. I’m just real happy with how things are going.”

So is Alaska coach Keith McCambridge, as Soares’ start has helped the Aces come out of the gate with a 10-5-1 record. McCambridge has been impressed with the attitude Soares has brought to the rink on a daily basis.

“He came into Anchorage and he’s played well every game,” McCambridge said. “His intensity, his competition level … it’s second to none. Obviously, his scoring ability has been a definite added bonus for us.”

It certainly caught the eyes of several members of the St. Louis Blues’ organization, as Soares went from a 45-point season in his senior year at Maine to the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria. While he only appeared in one game, Soares learned plenty about what it was going to take to succeed at the professional level.

“It was different,” Soares said of the transition. “I was happy I got the opportunity, just to see what the difference in the game was. The speed wasn’t that much faster. I just felt the players were bigger and stronger, and they’re positioned better. The puck moves quicker. Guys make quicker decisions.”

Despite an impressive training camp with Peoria, the Rivermen ultimately decided it would be beneficial for Soares to receive more ice time with the Aces. Soares, obviously, has taken the reassignment in stride, doing everything he can to force Peoria brass to make a decision in the near future.

“They told me to come down because they wanted me to play,” Soares said. “I think they have like 13 or 14 forwards up there right now. I’ve been fortunate enough to play well so far. Hopefully they’ve noticed that and maybe I can get an opportunity sometime soon.”

“At our level, he does everything very well,” McCambridge said. “We’re getting a consistent effort out of him every night. It’s just a matter of time that he does get his chance. He just has to keep that effort and keep that performance going on a consistent basis.”

Soares admitted he wasn’t very familiar with the ECHL prior to his reassignment to Alaska. Less than two months into season, though, Soares has come to the realization that he is surrounded by plenty of talent.

“I didn’t know much about it,” Soares said. “I had buddies that played in the league, so I just knew a little bit about it. It’s a lot better hockey than what I was expecting. There’s a lot of good players that could be playing up (in the AHL) that aren’t. I have a lot of respect for the league and the players in the league.”

Soares has also come to respect McCambridge, who is giving the Blues’ prospect a chance to shine in every facet of the game in Alaska. Not only has Soares been putting up solid numbers, but he’s also performed quite nicely in his own end, and he’s killing penalties, too. At the end of the day, Soares also pointed to McCambridge as one of the reasons for his quick start.

Keith McCambridge, head coach for Alaska, was pleasantly surprised by just how solid Soares was in his own end right from the get-go.

“I think that’s another key factor,” Soares said. “He’s really trusted in me. He’s given me opportunities in all situations. When you have your coach’s trust, it builds into your confidence. He’s always helped me out. I’m fortunate to have a good coach like that and someone that believes in me right now.”

McCambridge, who is in his first season as the head coach in Alaska, was pleasantly surprised by just how solid Soares was in his own end right from the get-go. Usually, such offensive talents need time at the ECHL level to hone their defensive skills. Soares, however, is way ahead of schedule.

“He’s a well-rounded player,” McCambridge said. “Obviously, the offensive side of things is taken care of. The defensive side, he’s strong also. I have him killing penalties, he plays power play … he does everything for us. It’s just a matter of maturing and getting his chance to go to the next level. I think he’s a player that once he makes that jump to the American Hockey League, I think he’s a player that will stick at that level.”

Until then, Soares will attempt to continue his hot start with the Aces. Considering that nothing seems to faze this kid -- he said he didn’t even experience much difficulty adjusting to life in the Great White North -- it’s a safe bet that Alaska will continue to benefit from having Soares in the lineup.

“It’s a little different,” Soares said of living in Alaska. “It’s not as bad as I thought. Where I was in Maine, I was in a small town. Anchorage is actually a pretty big city. The weather is very similar, only the snow comes a little early in Alaska. We had snow two weeks ago. But it’s been good. The guys have helped me really adjust. It’s been fun.”

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