WILCOX — The Stampede City has been good to the Notre Dame Hounds this season.
Three players from the Calgary area have been playing important roles for the SJHL club. As of Sunday, forward Dane Probe was fourth on the team in scoring. He serves as an assistant captain. Fellow assistant captain Sam Kroon was among the SJHL’s top 18 points producing defencemen. Since joining the Hounds in October, forward Carson Baylis is averaging 0.52 points per game.
A 20-year-old, Kroon grew up just outside of Calgary and spent time in the Cochrane minor hockey system. He said that due to the age difference, he did not know Probe and Baylis, both 19, until they became friends and teammates at Notre Dame in Wilcox. Meanwhile, the younger two Hounds have been friends for years.
“Carson and I played Timbits together and grew up as friends,” Probe said. “Over the years we would be on each other’s team, but we really became close friends when we moved to the same school together in Grade 7. It also helps that our sisters and parents are good friends.”
Kroon played six games for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Camrose Kodaks in 2020-2021 during a season severely shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. He is now in his second and last campaign with the Hounds. He will leave Notre Dame with much to remember. “I think I will remember the guys and friendships I have with past and current teammates and also some great memories on the ice,” Kroon said. “I think living in dorms with guys all year allows you to get really close with your teammates and I’ll have friendships with these guys my entire life.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Kroon is a key player on the Notre Dame blue line. He has five goals – four coming on the powerplay – this season. Kroon has collected 15 points in 29 games. He is also an important leader for the Hounds.
“When I got here, I discovered that not only was he a great player but a very important part of the leadership team,” Baylis said. “Kroon is very passionate about the team and wants everyone to be successful. He will tell you when you’ve made a mistake and coach you on how you can be better. He’s constantly leading by example and makes sure everyone is included to ensure the team culture stays positive. Kroon plays a huge role on both the team and leadership squad here at Notre Dame.”
After this season, Kroon hopes to play hockey at the post-secondary level while earning a degree.
Partway through this campaign, Probe has already matched the five goals he scored last season and surpassed the 14 points he posted during that rookie campaign. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has 18 points in 29 games at the SJHL Christmas break. What has allowed him to produce more points this season?
“I think it’s just a confidence thing for me and going into my second season becoming a veteran in the league,” Probe said. “Now you just expect yourself to produce and I feel it shows on the stat sheet. Also, the positions that I’m now put in relating to ice time and power play and thanks to the trust Brett has in me.”
Probe and Kroon have been roommates in the Notre Dame dorms for two years now. Kroon said he values his friendship with Probe and they have become closer on and off the ice.
“One thing I appreciate and enjoy about Dane is he is always honest about things on and off the ice and knows how to make me laugh, which makes rooming with him enjoyable,” Kroon said.
Calgary has a population of about 1.336 million people. Wilcox has roughly 264 people.
“Wilcox is definitely different from Calgary,” Probe said. “Everything feels way more connected as a community and that’s something that gets a little lost in a bigger city like Calgary. It definitely feels more like a collaborative and like a whole community working as one. Nobody is a stranger in Wilcox and I think that a great thing to have.”
When Baylis joined the team in October, he appreciated having Probe already on the squad. “I was extremely lucky that I knew Dane and was such good buddies with him before coming to Notre Dame,” Baylis said. “He helped me get comfortable as it’s not always easy being the ‘new guy.’ All the guys are great, but it was definitely nice knowing someone before I made it to Wilcox. He showed me the Hounds’ way and helped me join a part of the Hounds family. Also, just an unreal experience to get to play with one of my childhood buddies in junior.”
Probe was pleased to have his friend join for both on and off ice reasons. The 5-foot-8, 168-pounder has 11 goals and 13 points in 25 games. He is already ahead of the nine goals and close to the 16 points he posted in 58 games last season with Kindersley. “I really like Baylis’s game,” Probe said. “I think he’s got great hockey sense that lets him get to the right spots at the right times and put the puck in the net. His feet never stop moving. He’s always going 100 miles per house, which creates lots of opportunities for himself and his linemates.”
Baylis spent his first season of junior hockey with the Kindersley Klippers. Like most SJHL squads, the Klippers billet out to their players to local homes. The Notre Dame players live in dorms.
“The dorms are fun because all the boys are together, which creates a very tight knit culture for the team,” Baylis said. “It’s awesome to be able to walk a few steps and be able to have fun and hang out with the guys. Definitely a different experience than billeting but I’ve enjoyed always being with the guys.”