Former Bandits Semenok and Watt bring partnership to Trojansâ?? blue line

Let the record show that they both won a junior championship last spring with the Brooks Bandits, that they are both freshmen blueliners with the SAIT Trojans, that they are both taking carpentry courses at SAIT Polytechnic.

Come to think of it — has anyone actually seen Colton Semenok and David Watt in the same room together?

“I probably spent a good part of last summer trying to convince Colton to come and play at SAIT, because I thought it’d be a blast,” recalls Watt (1st year, Duchess, Alta., pre-employment carpentry, AJHL Brooks).

“We would make jokes about it at first: ‘Wouldn’t it be something if were teammates at SAIT next year?’ And as time went on, it started to look more and more like reality,” adds Semenok (1st year, Banff, Alta., pre-employment carpentry, AJHL Brooks).

Call them inseparable. Call them a package deal, if you like.

Watt and Semenok forged a great defensive partnership last winter in Brooks, helping to propel the Bandits to their first Alberta Junior Hockey League title. Now, they’ve brought that successful collaboration to the ranks of college hockey — and the transition seems to have been a fairly seamless one, with the pairing still intact. Two-thirds of the way through the 2012-13 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) season, Watt and Semenok have helped to smooth out the wrinkles of a SAIT blue-line overhaul — and have emerged as the Trojans’ top two offensive defencemen in the process.

The Trojans (12-3-3) have a huge showdown on tap this weekend with the defending ACAC champion University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings (13-2-3) of Camrose. The two-game series begins Friday, Jan. 18 in the Rose City, and continues Saturday, Jan. 19 at SAIT Arena at 6 p.m.

The Men of Troy trail the Vikings by two points for second place overall in ACAC standings; the top two teams at the end of the regular season will receive a bye through the first round of playoffs.

“I’d watched Colton and David for a couple of years with Brooks. They were a good pairing in junior, they won a championship, and they were very good players for their team,” says veteran Trojans head coach Ken Babey.

“We overhauled our defence corps (third-year defenceman Joe Babey is the lone holdover from 2011-12), because we weren’t happy with last year in that regard, and we were definitely thrilled we got both of them to come play for us,” adds Babey.

“We tried separating them with different D-line partners, but you know what? Chemistry kept winning out. They just seemed to be a natural pair — like bookends, right?”

The six-foot-one, 200-pound Watt, who’s no relation to teammate and former Calgary Flames draft pick J.D. Watt (1st year, Cremona, Alta., energy asset management, AHL Manchester), leads all Trojan defencemen with 12 points, including three goals, through 16 games. The six-foot-one, 190-pound Semenok isn’t far behind, with five goals among nine points through 17 games.

According to Babey, Watt is somewhat more conservative, but still adept at providing that first crisp breakout pass, while Semenok is more of a risk-taker, and more willing to join the rush up ice.

“We’re equally skilled with the puck, I’d say. We both have a pretty calm presence out on the ice; neither of us gets too fired up. Defensively, we’re physical when we need to be, we’re good on our feet, we block shots, and we don’t tend to get out of position too often,” says Semenok.

As for their blue-line partnership, “you get so used to playing with someone . . . by now, we understand each other’s playing styles more than other people might. We’ve adjusted to each other’s playing styles, and where the other guy will be in certain situations,” he adds. “It definitely has a lot to do with trust, communication, the time you’ve spent together on the ice.”

Semenok and Watt have also worked their way up to the Trojans’ No. 1 power-play unit.

Semenok, with the big bomb from the point, is the team’s co-leader in power-play goals, with four, while Watt’s bread-and-butter with the man advantage is the back-door play.

“Colton definitely has the harder shot back at the point. Myself, I like to kind of get lost out there . . . and then when the right play comes along, jump down back-door. That’s how I’ve been scoring my goals lately,” says Watt.

Babey says a new sense of urgency has gripped the Trojans since they returned from exam and Christmas break. Semenok says he feels it too — and he thinks he knows what’s motivating this young SAIT squad, which has 17 college rookies on its roster.

“All of us new guys, when we were in junior, we’d have a 60-game season. You look at the schedule and think, ‘We’ve only played 16 games . . . there’s so much season left,’ ” he remarks.

“But as soon as Christmas is over, and you realize there are only 12 (regular-season) games left — things start to kick in. Everyone knows it’s time to get serious.”