There is a player on the No. 2 ranked Denver Pioneers that, although small in stature at 5-foot-7, is pretty easy to notice on the ice due to his combination of speed and skill. That’s Liam Finlay, a freshman forward out of Kelowna, British Columbia.
After a slow start with his new team, Finlay is starting to blossom as a Pioneer; he’s tallied eight points in the last six games including two assists in Saturday night's matchup with Colorado College.
“Everything that we’ve seen in the last few games is what we brought [Finlay] here to do,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game on Saturday. “He puts people on their heels because of how quick he is going east-to-west. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
The British Columbia native had a difficult transition from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) into college hockey during the first few games.
“At the beginning, it was tough because it’s such a faster game,” Finlay explained. “I mean the BCHL is a good league, but [in college hockey] you’re playing against 24-25-year-olds so there’s a lot of adjustment and it’s something you just have to get used to and work on every day.”
Early in the season, Finlay struggled to produce offensively and that led to being a healthy scratch in a couple of games. The youngster had to find a way out of the slump and he went to the only place a 19-year-old would.
“I had a sit down with my parents and we talked about it,” Finlay explained. “It’s all about habits, you know, coming to the rink every day and even practice, practicing as hard as I could and that’s translated to the games I feel like.”
Finlay has since found his game and that led to Coach Montgomery giving him a shot on the first line while Troy Terry was out with a wrist injury.
“You never like to see a guy go down,” Finlay said. “It kinda sucked to see him like that and I’m glad he’s back. But yeah it did give me an opportunity and I think I took that opportunity and I’m playing a lot better now.”
Finlay has been on the second power play unit for almost the entire season. Recently, the second unit has made some huge strides, scoring goals in three of the last four games. The reason for this is because of Finlay's play off of the half wall, he's been brilliant with using his speed and skill to attract the defense and then finding the open guy. These two goals came in the same game against the UNO Mavericks:
The one thing that has been easy to notice on the ice in the last few games is Finlay’s confidence. Every time he gets the puck, he knows that he is going to make a play with it; whereas, in the beginning of the season, he was more hesitant and was really trying to figure out where he can find pockets of space. Finlay attributed his newfound confidence as one of the main reasons for his recent success.
“I think it’s a confidence thing,” Finlay said. “When I was out I kind of reevaluated everything and came back with the attitude that you got to understand you’re a good player and to play in this league you have to be confident.”
Even from just this gif, it's easy to tell that Finlay is currently oozing with confidence:
The Pioneers will hope that the skilled speedster will carry that confidence through the rest of the season as they don’t have a very deep pool of finesse forwards that they can expect to produce offensively. They will need Finlay to keep scoring if they are going to win a National Championship.