TISDALE — More than six months after their season abruptly ended, the Tisdale Trojans are ready to hit the ice again for meaningful games.
The Saskatchewan Male U18 AAA Hockey League team opens its regular season on Sunday hosting the Saskatoon Blazers at the Tisdale RECplex. When asked about last weekend’s exhibition play against Prince Albert, Trojans head coach Dennis Kubat made a statement that could also apply to the season’s start:
“Just excited to be back on the ice. I know the boys were excited... The parents, the coaches, the players, everyone was excited to get back out there.”
The Trojans’ 2020 postseason was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the squad trailing the top-seeded Regina Pat Canadians, 2-0, in the league semifinals last March. A young, rookie-laden Tisdale team went 23-19-1-1 in the 2019-20 regular season. In the playoffs, the No. 7-seeded Trojans upset the No. 2 Blazers, 3-1.
The 2020-21 season will definitely be a different campaign. Gone are traditional foes the Notre Dame Argos and Beardy’s Blackhawks – replaced by the Warman Wildcats and Estevan Bears. As well, due to COVID-19, the season is down to 30 games, all games are slated for weekends, and crowds will be limited.
While the Trojans’ top six scorers from last season have moved onto the junior ranks, the organization will put an older team with experience on the ice this season. Eight players are back from last season. General manager Cole Simpson, Kubat and the rest of the Trojans have stocked the roster with older players – including some with U18 AAA experience and one who played in the junior ranks.
Up front the Trojans have lost such players as last year’s leading scorer Kalen Ukraintez (33 goals and 63 points in 41 games) – the team captain who also is Tisdale’s leader in career points, Trenton Curtis (51 points), and Mackenzie Carson (31 goals). In their stead is a forward group that Kubat believes is deep. The team hopes to use that depth to score by committee and “just wear down teams,” Kubat said.
Carter Briltz is the team’s top returning scorer. He had 25 points, with 12 goals, goals in 44 games. Also back at forward for the Trojans are Kylynn Olafson (19 points), Kayden Ostrom (10), and Jordan Normand (nine).
The Tisdale team adds two 17-year-old forwards who competed in the league last season. Dawson Brace from White City joins the Trojans after posting 10 points in 30 games for Prince Albert last season. Martensville’s Payton Kachur had five points for Yorkton.
To the U18 AA veterans up front, the team adds 16-year-old Zackery Somers of Melfort (30 points in 36 games for Prairie Hockey Academy Elite 15s last season), Canora 17-year-old Clay Sleeva (15 goals and 44 points in 36 games for U18 AA Yorkton), 15-year-old Harper Lolacher of Pilot Butte (16 points in 27 games for Notre Dame U15), Quill Lake 17-year-old Kaiden Korolchuk (22 goals, 44 points in 33 games for Humboldt U18 AA), and 16-year-old Jacob Cossette of Air Ronge (20 goals and 41 points in 33 games for Beardy’s U18 AA). Lolacher is the younger brother of Hunter Lolacher, the Trojans’ returning goaltender. The youngster is the team’s lone 15-year-old.
Tisdale will have a veteran and older backend even with the departure of Zac Robins (28 points) and others. Returning to the team are Nicholas Andrusiak (17 points in 44 games), Jeremy Hancock (13 points), and Cole Tanchuk (nine points). Joining them is Warman 16-year-old Kody Norberg, who played AAA last season for Beardy’s. Onion Lake’s Lare Pahtayken, in his 17-year-old season, joins after spending the last two years at the Tier II Junior A and Junior B levels. The Trojans have added Saskatoon 16-year-old Cole Barry, who played at the midget AA level last season.
In goal, returning netminder Hunter Lolacher led the Trojans last season with a 3.22 goals against average and a .900 save percentage. He will be backed up by Archerwill 16-year-old Cody Wilson. Last season Wilson posted a 2.46 GAA and .906 save percentage with the U18 AA North East team.