By LOGAN CLOW
Playing for the Grande Prairie Storm runs in the Cote family.
Taylor Cote, 23, now an electrician, played four seasons for the Storm and captained the team in 2012-2013.
Flash forward a few seasons later and Taylor’s two younger brothers Walker, 18, and Cruz, 17, have become regulars in the Storm line-up.
Not only are all three forwards, but the three Falher brothers also went through the GPAC system.
Walker and Cruz played some minor hockey together, but this season is the first time in a few years they’ve been able to play together. They said they’re best friends away from the rink.
“I think we’re both players that like to keep it simple, so it’s not that tough to play with each other,” said Cruz, who has two goals and six assists this season.
Playing simple is exactly how they play.
They’ve never been overly high on the offensive production side of the game, nor flashy by any means, but you can always expect a hard working, gritty-type shift from them both.
“Offensive opportunities aren’t my speciality yet,” said Walker, with a laugh, who has yet to score his first junior A goal, but does have four assists.
Hitting several posts and having two goals called off already has been “frustrating,” he admitted, but said the key is to keep playing a simple game.
“I’m not really worried about scoring goals. I just want to help the team win.”
One reason Walker still hasn’t put the puck in is because he’s still adjusting to playing as a forward.
Walker, who captained the midget AAA Storm last season, grew up playing defence. It was actually at Storm camp back in August, at the request of head coach and GM Kevin Higo, that he make the transition.
“It’s a completely different game,” noted Walker of the adjustment, adding he’s relishing the opportunity and learning more and more each day.
The brothers’ work ethic on and off the ice, as well as their team-first mentality has propelled them to being regulars in the team’s line-up, noted head coach Kevin Higo.
He said the brothers are model Peace Region players that the organization is looking for because they have become quite active in the community and have embraced being local.
“This year, (Cruz has) come in with more confidence and is a big, strong guy,” said Higo.
“Cruz, I think is a guy that’s bounced higher (in the depth chart this year) than he anticipated, but a lot of that is on his preparation this year; he had a good summer. He worked on his skills. We talked a lot to him about working on his puck skills and he did.”
Higo said Walker has been a crucial player in the team’s success on the penalty kill and has become a well-liked person in the locker room.
“(Walker) has fit in real good on our penalty kill,” noted Higo.
“Now, we’re almost at 90% (on the penalty kill) and (Walker’s) been a big part of that.”
The two brothers took similar paths through GPAC. The only difference is that Walker spent his 2012-2013 season down in the Okanagan playing bantam prep.
In addition to getting some older brother advice from Taylor, the two brothers said playing through GPAC was also crucial in their development.
Growing up, they envisioned themselves one day playing for the Storm.
“Even growing up, we’d come to Storm games and watch (Dennis) Rix and (Carter) Rowney and those type of players come through. It’s quite special to throw on the Storm jersey and play in this arena,” said Cruz.
“Both of our hearts were here. We wanted to play where our older brother played and it was an awesome opportunity that Kevin gave us and we’re grateful for it,” added Walker.