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The bright lights of Las Vegas might be a draw to tourists, but the West Sound Warriors are treating this week like a business trip. West Sound and the rest...

The bright lights of Las Vegas might be a draw to tourists, but the West Sound Warriors are treating this week like a business trip.

West Sound and the rest of the Western States Hockey League are preparing for the start of the College Showcase tournament.

The Warriors play at 8 a.m. Tuesday against Canada Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) all-star team. Then they face Fresno at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday and finally Springfield at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

It might be his third time playing in the showcase, but Warriors forward Bryce Ebert of Aloha, Ore., still gets butterflies and a rush of adrenaline.

Ebert said the tournament has a different kind of vibe.

“It’s kind of a feeling out to see who can show up and play because there are still league points at the end and everybody wants to be seen by schools, pro teams, things like that,” Ebert said. “But in the end, it’s still league points, and that’s where gaps start happening in the standings.”

Bryce Ebert and Alec Johnson come out of the locker room for the third period last week for a WSHL game against Bellingham. The Warriors are in Las Vegas for the WSHL College Showcase this week.
(Jon Williams/For West Sound SportsPlus)

West Sound coach Ty Smith said the showcase is a big deal.

More than 100 scouts will be on hand from college to higher junior leagues and the pro ranks.

“It’s all about getting the players in front of an audience at the higher level,” Smith said. (Scouts) watch film and video all the time, but it’s a lot different live and in person.”

Ebert said the players know the men in “black jackets” are scouts and for the younger players it can be intimidating looking in the stands and seeing all those faces looking back.

“For the guys who haven’t done it before it’s going to be a little weird,” he said. “But once you get over that and realize you still have to play a game you’ll be set. It’s not thinking too much about what’s going on around you and focusing on those 15 minutes of hockey and get those two points that you need.”

One of those guys is Warriors rookie Robbie Larson of Homer, Alaska.

Larson said he wants to put his best foot forward.

“You’ve got to play your best for your future and move up in the ranks of junior hockey,” he said. “Even just getting your name out there, in general, you can get some better looks for your future.”

The games are two, 25-minute halves instead of the usual three, 20-minute periods because of the number of games scheduled.

Smith said it’s a crazy, hectic week.

“Every (WSHL) team is there,” he said. “It’s a great deal for us (the league).”

West Sound Warriors Connor Wherrett, left, celebrates his game-tying goal with teammates Erik Safstram and Sam Pelech, right, in a game last week against Bellingham. The Warriors play Tuesday in the Western States Hockey League College Showcase in Las Vegas against the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) All-Star team. Games continue this week.
(Jon Williams/For West Sound SportsPlus)

Not only is it a time for players to be seen, but like Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings, it’s an active time for trades among teams.

“Most of the trades during the year happen at the showcase,” Smith said. “There’s always players switching teams at the showcase. It doesn’t happen at the showcase but right after is when all the trades are made.”

So while the showcase can help a player determine his immediate future, Ebert knows there are league points to be won.

“It’s important to be seen and all that, but you still have to win,” he said.

WSHL College Showcase

When: Tuesday, 8 a.m. West Sound vs. CPJHL; Wednesday, 10:15 a.m. West Sound vs. Fresno; Thursday, 1:15 a.m. West Sound vs. Springfield

Where: Las Vegas, Sobe Ice Arena, City National Arena A, B

More info: wshlstats.com

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