Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Priestner Happy to be Back

James Priestner is back with the Prince George Cougars, and happier than ever.

It was about 12 months ago that the 19-year old Edmonton product decided to walk away from the game he’d played extensively for much of his life, proclaiming at the time that he was retiring because “his heart wasn’t in hockey any more.”

Priestner did some extensive traveling during the winter of 2009-2010 after leaving the game, and found a new fire that brought him back to the game last spring.

“I probably wouldn’t be here right now if I would have played out the year last year,” said Priestner following the Cougars’ game-day skate earlier today, “I got some time off, I went traveling for four months and while I was on my travels, I just decided that it is a pretty cool lifestyle. Not a lot of people get an opportunity to play a sport at this high of a level.”

Just before the WHL Bantam Draft last April, the former Brandon Wheat King approached Prince George general manager Dallas Thompson and Cougars’ head coach Dean Clark about the possibility of rejoining the Cougars and was told he’d be welcome back, but would definitely have to earn his spot on the team.

“They were good about it. They said come, work hard, be in good shape, and I really did that,” says the 6-foot-1, 180 pound Priestner, “I worked the hardest that I probably ever have this summer, and I definitely am in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

So far, so good for Priestner, who is 4-3-1 on the year with a 3.48 goals against average and .889 save percentage while seeing action in eight of the Cougars’ 10 games so far this season.

Priestner has been particularly sharp lately, stopped 71 of 74 shots over the last two games, both of them Prince George victories.

“I’m glad I made the decision to come back,” says Priestner, “I worked really hard to come back and, now, I’m here, we have a good group of guys this year, a good team and I’m really happy I made the decision.”

Priestner, who was dealt by Brandon to the Cougars for a 2011 third round draft pick in August of 2009, will get the start tonight when Prince George hosts the Wheat Kings (8:30 p.m., CKLQ).

I'll have the complete interview with Priestner I did following the game-day skate today during the second intermission of tonight's broadcast.

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