When the Colorado Thunderbirds needed help on defense in the 2016-17 season, Levi Clemenson spent most of his time there.
Able to return to his more natural forward position this season, Clemenson still put some of his defensive positioning skills to work.
Clemenson remained on the point for the power play throughout the 2017-18 season and made a late push to claim the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League scoring title.
“I think I’m just more patient with the puck,” said Clemenson, who tied for third in the RMJHL in power-play goals with seven and tied for fourth in power-play assists with nine. “I think I have good eyes when I’m up on top with the puck.”
Clemenson also tries to take advantage of rushing the puck on the power play, not just running the point once the Thunderbirds are set up in the offensive zone.
“When we set up the puck behind our net on our power play to go on a rush, I just feel like I can get so much speed,” Clemenson said.
Clemenson was right at two points per game before pushing that pace up just a bit with 20 points in his last nine games. He scored a hat trick against the regular-season champion Steamboat Wranglers in the finale to surpass Jacob May of the Pikes Peak Miners by a single point.
May finished with 32 goals and 43 assists. Clemenson scored 28 goals while hitting league-highs of 48 assists and 76 points. The league scoring race went right down to the final day.
The Thunderbirds were in a position to help the Miners, who were already done with their season, and deprive the Wranglers of a first-place finish. Clemenson had his shot at catching May in the scoring race.
Steamboat opened a 5-1 lead before Clemenson scored on the power play.
Clemenson converted a two-on-one with the Thunderbirds shorthanded to cut the deficit to 6-4. He scored again off a breakout from a defensive zone faceoff, helping Colorado force the game into overtime before Steamboat recovered to take the league title with a 7-6 win.
The rally on the road against the league’s best team could provide a boost for the third-place Thunderbirds as they prepare to open the playoffs Friday.
“That last game helped us a lot,” Clemenson said. “We knew what that game was for the Wranglers.
“ … This week at practice, the momentum from that was through the roof. I think we’re ready to go in the playoffs.”
Clemenson, 19, is hoping his success this season will open up a chance to play on a higher level of junior hockey next season.
He already has experience with living with a billet family and playing away from home. After making the Thunderbirds AAA team on the 15U level, Clemenson was cut in his attempt to make the 16U team. He wound up playing his AAA hockey in Utah with the West Coast Renegades.
Clemenson returned home when the RMJHL made its debut in time for the 2015-16 season and the Thunderbirds organization began competing on the junior level. He has thrived playing on a team coached by his uncle, Cam Clemenson.
After producing 29 goals and 35 assists two years, Clemenson still managed 16 goals and 27 assists last season while playing defense on a team that struggled at times.
Clemenson served as assistant captain last season and has taken on the captain’s role this season. He credits improved play by his linemates with helping his own numbers go up.
Center Eric Wilson led the Thunderbirds in goals and ranked fourth in the RMJHL in points. Trevor Haertle joins Clemenson and Wilson as the line’s left wing.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of John Hanson.