CARROT RIVER — One day Chance Griffith got a direct message out of the blue from Steven Soyko.
A Crossfield, Alta. product, Griffith had recently been traded to the Carrot River Outback Thunder from British Columbia’s Fernie Ghostriders. Soyko reached out to the fellow goaltender and told him to come to the Prairie Junior Hockey League. Griffith did. He, Soyko and Justice Haack have given the Prairie Junior Hockey League team three strong netminders.
“I like having three goalies in practice. It adds a little competition,” said Soyko, before joking “even though Chance and I are usually joking around,”
Soyko, Griffith and Haack have helped backstop the Outback Thunder to the playoffs. The team has secured a postseason berth after missing last season. Outback Thunder general manager Brennan Hall said that Griffith and Soyko each bring elite experience and large resumes to the team. In addition, they have both been a great fit personality wise.
“They’ve also brought an off-ice dynamic that’s hard to find sometimes especially when you have been traded to a new team... and that dynamic is just the way they’ve gelled and fit in with our group and made themselves at home,” Hall said. “They both can play against any team in the league and perform well and they can both talk or hang around any of our guys off the ice and get along real well. When you have that sort of on to off ice dynamic in both guys, there’s not much more you could ask for. We are very pleased with how they have come over and adapted and we are extremely happy with the trio we have going on between the pipes.”
Hall emphasized that the team is comfortable with all three goalies. The 19-year-old Soyko was traded to Carrot River in October. He has a team high nine wins.
“He immediately fit in and gelled with our group and showed us all that he can steal games night in and night out for us,” Hall said.
Soyko came from his hometown Prince Albert Titans. When asked about competing against his former team, Soyko said, “I love it when we win, but I definitely get a earful from my buddies on P.A. when they beat us, but overall they’re pretty good games and it’s fun to be on the ice with all your buddies, even when your not on the same team anymore.”
Soyko, who billets with the Cole family, is having fun playing for the Outback Thunder.
“I really enjoy being on the ice everyday with the boys and having such a close team,” he said. “I also really like the small-town life style. We’re always outside doing something fun.” Griffith has also enjoyed the team since coming to Carrot River. He likes playing with Soyko and being roommates with Outback Thunder defenceman Tristin Strunk at Jessie and Duane Charko’s. The Carrot River squad acquired Griffith at the Jan. 10 trade deadline and have certainly been pleased that they did. He won three of his first four games with the team. Hall praised how Griffith has fit in and “proved to us that he has elite talents and can help us win games.” Haack has been part of the team since the season started.
“Justice [an 18-year-old from Colbert, Wash.] has been here since day one so everyone knows him very well and they know what to expect out of him. He’s a part of our core we’ve carried since the beginning and a is a crucial piece to our team’s success.”
The Thunder last week
Saturday, Feb. 8 in Carrot River
Delisle 5, Carrot River 1
Outback Thunder Scorers: Brett Harper
Chiefs Scorers: Max Kliener, Mark Walchuk, Conor Prosofsky, Joel Zaidan, Adam Bradley
Goalies: Chace Griffith, Carrot River, 37 saves on 42 shots; Tyler Peterson, Delisle, 23 on 24
Notes: The game was dedicated to Clark Funk. Funk and his brother Max participated in a ceremonial puck drop. The youngster has been fighting leukemia. The Chiefs led 2-0 and 3-1 at the intermissions.
Sunday, Feb. 9 in Prince Albert
Carrot River 4, Prince Albert 2
Carrot River Scorers: Liam Hallett, Brandt Fiske, Tyrell Nicklen, David Wiens
Titans Scorers: Matthew Hawkes, Ben Zultok
Goalies: Steven Soyko, Carrot River, 55 saves on 57 shots; Travis Dryka, Prince Albert, 35 on 38
Notes: The two teams were tied at 1-1 after one period. Prince Albert led 2-1 at the second intermission. Wiens, Hallett, and Fiske each lit the lamp in third to propel the Outback Thunder to victory. Wiens finished with three points. The win was big as it put more points between the Outback Thunder and the Titans in the standings. As of Sunday, Carrot River was fifth in the Bob Dybvig Division with 33 points while P.A. was sixth with 28. “Sundays game was huge for Soyks,” head coach Luke Folk said. “Playing in his hometown barn against his old team, he was looking forward to that game for awhile and he played a huge part in us getting some much needed points and locking down fifth place.” Of his netminder, Folk said, “Soyko has been a wall for us when we need it most. He manages to come up with some highlight reel saves, which not only keeps us in games but also gives the boys a boost of energy going forward.”
The Carrot River Outback Thunder (16-22-1) play their final game of the regular season on Saturday - hosting the Saskatoon Quakers (32-5-1).