Road to redemption

John
John Browne
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A reinvigorated Mike Howlett hopes to lead Laurentians to national gold

Junior Edwards can't quite put his finger on it, but he says, in some ways, 35-year-old striker Mike Howlett has never looked better. And the St. Lawrence Laurentians coach says its more than the dozen pounds the veteran has lost.

"There's something about him," said Edwards. "He's more mature...more laid back. More of a complete player in every way."

Mike Howlett

Junior Edwards can't quite put his finger on it, but he says, in some ways, 35-year-old striker Mike Howlett has never looked better. And the St. Lawrence Laurentians coach says its more than the dozen pounds the veteran has lost.

"There's something about him," said Edwards. "He's more mature...more laid back. More of a complete player in every way."

Edwards said Howlett was "pretty pissed with himself" that he didn't play well enough for St. Lawrence at the nationals in St. John's two years ago and, after sitting out last season, he figures the veteran didn't want to leave the game on a sour note.

"He was fed up and took a year off, but he missed the game, I guess," said Edwards.

Howlett scored a pair of goals in the Laurentians final game of the 2008 nationals in a wild 5-3 win over Manitoba, but the Laurentians finished in seventh place which was a disappointment after the team had earned a bronze medal the previous year when Howlett notched four goals in the tournament played in Nova Scotia which he called one of his best performances.

For his part, Howlett said his decision to return to the field isn't so much based on recent disappointment, but on a renewed enthusiasm for the game which he picked up last year at the nationals in Saskatchewan where he went to see Holy Cross represent the province.

"I thought I was done," admitted Howlett, "but I met with a lot of my old Calgary buddies and got a bit of a drive back in me to play again."

Howlett lived and worked in Calgary for a dozen years before returning home a few years ago.

As far as the change in his overall game and attitude is concerned, Howlett said that actually happened when he was 29 or 30.

"My game changed years ago when I stopped worrying about scoring goals," he said. "I'm all about the team now. I play a slower game and I play balls off and try to get everybody involved. I'm not trying to be the showstopper. I just try to play.

"I'm playing with my mind... my brain rather than my lungs and muscle."

Howlett now paces himself, saving his energy for situations and openings where he can sprint with purpose and be most effective.

And he doesn't have to blast the ball to the back of the net to score. A chip, a tap, a side kick, a well-aimed strike counts just the same when the ball goes over the line.

As far as his shot is concerned, Howlett said, "It's like a golf swing. Nobody just drives the ball as hard as he can. It's about technique."

Howlett has played on two national championship teams with Calgary and wants a third with his home town and the sooner the better.

"If I get a third one (gold medal) it would be awesome."

He feels his team will be in contention for the provincial Challenge Cup title at the end of the season as it usually is.

"We've got a pretty good team and we do have some depth," says Howlett. "Maybe we don't have as much depth as we did years ago, but we've got players off the bench who can come in and do the job."

Howlett also has another reason to keep playing.

He said he has always wanted to play long enough for his son Cole, who just turned five, to see him play and perhaps appreciate what he does.

Due to vacation time on the mainland, Howlett has only played one game this year and that was a four-goal effort against St. John's 18s on the opening day of the season.

"He's in super shape and although it was only against the U18s, he really looked good," noted coach Edwards about Howlett's start to this season.

"He played off the ball well and showed his ball sense. He's a perfect striker. He seems as fast as ever and he still has a great shot," Edwards added.

Howlett is expected to be in the lineup this weekend when St. Lawrence plays host to Conception Bay Auto Strikers 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Centennial Field. In other games Saturday, Mount Pearl plays Holy Cross 6:30 p.m. at King George V Park and St. John's U18s travel to Corner Brook to play Western United 7 p.m. Sunday's only other action has St. John's U18s playing United again at noon at Wellington Street Complex.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Wellington Street Complex

Geographic location: Laurentians, St. John's, Calgary Manitoba Nova Scotia Saskatchewan Mount Pearl King George V Park Corner Brook

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