Early end to Nipawin Hawks’ playoff run ‘not acceptable’: coach

NIPAWIN — The Nipawin Hawks organization was pleased with the development of its players during a successful 2018-19 season.

“The majority of players, especially the young guys, made huge strides throughout the year and as a staff that is what we are looking for,” head coach Doug Johnson said when asked what he was most pleased with about the season. “Also, the character of these young men is outstanding. They are all great ambassadors for the Hawks.”

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After hoisting the Canalta Cup in 2018, the Hawks were able to rebuild on the fly this season. With only six players back from last season, Nipawin battled its way to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) best record of 38-15-2-3 in the regular season. Although the Hawks surprised many with their regular season success with many new and young players, the team was looking for a longer playoff run.

“This was not what we expected, and for the first time in five years, we are done before the start of Major League Baseball,” Johnson said. “That is something that is not acceptable in our minds and we will make sure to do whatever we can to make it not happen again.”

In the SJHL quarterfinals, the top-seeded Hawks fell to the Yorkton Terriers, the No. 8 seed, four games to one. The Hawks displayed their character and resiliency as they fought their way back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a seventh and final game. Yorkton was able to prevail 4-3.

“To me, the series was all about who made the least mistakes,” Johnson said. “For whatever reason, we made way too many defensive mistakes throughout the series, which was incredibly disappointing since all year we were very solid defensively.”

Jake Tremblay led the Hawks offensively in the playoffs. Tremblay, who turned 19 during the postseason, paced the team with four goals and eight points. Sixteen-year-old Jaxsen Wiebe led the team with five playoff assists and was second with seven points.

With the Hawks’ season over, so are the junior hockey careers of six players in their 20-year-old years. The group includes standout goalie Declan Hobbs, who led the SJHL in goals against average at 1.84 and save percentage with .937; defencemen Gage Misskey (captain), Jarrod Isley, and Walker Cote; and forwards Arik Breton and Christian Bosa.

“With all the graduating players, they all bring something a little bit different that you will miss,” Johnson said. “Some were around longer than others so you get to know them a bit more, but at the end of the day we will miss them all because of how special of young men they were. All six of them were outstanding citizens that cared about their teammates, the Nipawin community and did whatever they could to make our team and town better.”

The Hawks could potentially return many players from this year’s squad, including their top three leading scorers from the regular season: Austen Flaman (19 goals, 44 points), Jordan Simoneau (33 points), and Tremblay (33). Top defencemen like Colten Gerlib are eligible to return. Goaltender Patrick Pugliese, a 19-year-old, was second to his teammate Hobbs in the SJHL standings in goals against average (1.95) and save percentage (.931).

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