Although their journey into the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) officially began in April, the Brisbane Lightning is putting the competition on notice. The expansion side find themselves in a favourable position, as they sit at the top of the Rurak Conference’s leaderboard.
The Lightning are enjoying a strong start in their first-year, recording three wins out of five games so far.
One crucial part of the expansion side’s start to the AIHL is the contribution of Canadian import Jordan McTaggart. The 29-year-old signed on to join the Lightning for the 2023 season, and has been garnering attention since making his AIHL debut against the Central Coast Rhinos.
According to McTaggart, the early wins add as motivation for the team moving forward in the season.
Jordan McTaggart spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about the season so far and his decision to sign with Brisbane.
“It definitely helps a lot getting some wins early in the season, [there’s] always a bit [where] you’re unsure of what to expect with a new team like that,” McTaggart told The Inner Sanctum.
“I think we’ve found some good, new recruits for this year to bolster the line-up, so I think it makes it a lot more exciting, and will make a lot more people want to come watch with some early wins.”
Despite being handed the title of new kids on the block, the Brisbane Lightning are proving to be a threat this season offensively. Harley Anderson leads the league’s scorers with 20 points, McTaggart himself trails just behind with 17, whilst Julian Fodor rounds out the top three with 15.
His stint with the Rampage in the PHL saw him already become familiar with the Australian ice hockey culture. But for McTaggart, the opportunity to sign with the Lightning was an ‘easy decision’.
“[I] came to Australia last year and I had some friends who played ice hockey in Australia. So [I] kinda knew that there was a fairly big hockey community in Australia, [or] bigger than people know. [I] just had a lot of fun playing last year obviously in a separate league, which that league had folded,” he said.
“So [I] had a tonne of fun travelling around Australia and playing hockey, and wanted to do it again. I’m going to school in the Gold Coast, so Brisbane is a close, easy option.”
McTaggart’s decision to join the Lightning sees him join the vast amount of international names who have ties to the AIHL. As he explains, this includes those most closest to him.
“I started looking into options in playing hockey. I had a few good friends who I played with back home in Canada. One had played for the Sydney Ice Dogs, Curtis Skip [and] one who played for Newcastle [Northstars], Sam Lawson,” he explained.
“Originally I was going to go to the University of Sydney, but the timeline with COVID didn’t work out so I ended up coming to the Gold Coast. Then I stumbled upon the Brisbane Rampage two or three weeks before I moved out here.
“[I] sent an email and it ended up working out playing with them. It was a real bonus to be able to play hockey out here, it’s been a really good way to meet people and make some connections. Now I have some really good friends for life who I met through hockey.”
Whilst he doesn’t have one set professional he likes to try and model his game on, McTaggart says his close friend and current American Hockey League (AHL) player Tanner Fritz is someone that looks up to when crafting his own strategy on the ice.
“I don’t know about professional athletes, but a combination of players that I’ve played with or I grew up watching. I think you just always try to take little things from the guys that you played with that were successful,” he said.
“So Tanner Fritz would be one guy. He’s from my hometown [and he] has played in the NHL a little bit. I think just skating with him in the summers and seeing how he does things, scores goals and makes plays, he’s definitely one guy that I would try to model my approach to hockey with and how I want to play the game.”
With previous ties to the Brisbane Rampage in the Pacific Hockey League (PHL), which he says was a ‘really good experience’ for him, the Canadian import says that he’ll be looking to bring that experience and make strong a contribution this season.
“I think especially after the first two seasons, we’ve seen some pretty positive and exciting stuff from the team. So I think personally I just want to contribute to the team every night,” he explained.
“Offensively is always nice. But whether it’s on the scoresheet or not, just doing the right things and just helping teach guys how to play hockey the right way. I think for the team, like I said, I think it’s a very optimistic group of guys. A young group of guys.
“I think just competing every night with the best teams and see where that takes us.”
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