TRURO - Kyle Tibbo can be a deceiving guy.
Kyle Tibbo has been having a strong rookie campaign for the Truro Bearcats this season. The 17-year-old has 33 points in 37 games but coach Shawn Evans is even more impressed with Tibbo's hockey IQ and willingness to play hard in all areas of the ice. File photo
Watching him play, any hockey fan could easily be tricked into thinking the native of Conception Bay South, Nfld., is a veteran nearing the end of his junior career. Tibbo, however, is a 17-year-old rookie for the Truro Bearcats who has been pleasing coach Shawn Evans with his mature style of play.
"He's been having a really solid season for us," Evans, who discovered Tibbo at the Atlantic major midget championship in St. John's in 2012, said. "In a lot of ways, he doesn't play his age."
The coach is hoping that continues as the Bearcats enter a busy weekend. The Hubtown squad is in Kentville tonight to take on the Valley Wildcats (17-18-3-1) at 7:30 p.m. before hosting the Pictou County Crushers (25-9-0-5) Saturday at 7 p.m. at RECC. The Campbellton Tigers (9-28-1-1) come to town Sunday at 6 p.m. for a makeup of a Sept. 28 contest postponed due to the RECC official opening ceremonies.
All three contests are important for the Bearcats, who are locked in an ultra-tight race for top spot in the EastLink Division. Before Thursday's game between the Crushers and Woodstock Slammers, Truro sat just one point behind Pictou County for first, while the third-place Amherst Ramblers (25-12-0-1) are just three points behind Truro.
A look at Tibbo's numbers could also throw fans for a loop. The five-foot-11, 195-pounder has 33 points (16G, 17A) in just 37 games this season. The totals slot him seventh in team scoring, which could easily lead to the conclusion he's strictly an offensive-minded skater. That, however, isn't the case at all.
"His 200-foot game at 17 is impressive," Evans, who values complete hockey players, said. "He's come in and surprised me with his speed, his grit and his willingness to play a 200-foot game."
He's had to work at it. As a younger player, his offensive skills outweighed his talents in his own end. But that's how bad Tibbo, who was selected by the Bearcats in the second round, 14th overall in 2012, wants to win. Helping his team grab two points on a nightly basis is the bottom line and to do that, Tibbo knew he had to make sure he was defensively responsible when he joined the Bearcats this season.
"I've been getting better at it," he said. "If I'm better in the defensive zone, the offensive stuff will look after itself."
"I don't really worry about my personal stats anyway," Tibbo added. "I'm happy when the rest of the guys are happy and we're winning."
Evans said Tibbo's strong play has been helped by his vision on the ice. Tibbo, he said, just seems to have a knack for being in the right spot at the right time.
"One of his best attributes is his intelligence on the ice," he said. "He understands his way around the rink. A lot of players play in a tunnel, but he's not one of those guys."
Although he's got a ton of talent, Tibbo has had the benefit of playing with veterans Tyler Morrison and Mitchell Robillard, who have been near the top of the team scoring chart all season. Robillard recently went down with a broken wrist leaving the door open for sophomore and fellow Newfoundlander Brandon Pye to join the line. Tibbo has been soaking up all the knowledge he can from his more experienced linemates.
"They obviously know the game and it's been great playing with them," Tibbo said. "Coach has kept us together all season so he obviously believes in us."
On Twitter: @tdnmatt
Hometown: Conception Bay South, Nfld.