TISDALE — The Tisdale Trojans are looking to turn some heads in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
After finishing the regular season with a 23-19-1-1 record, the Trojans earned the seventh seed for the postseason. They take on the second seeded Saskatoon Blazers (33-9-1-1).
“We are a seven seed against a two,” Tisdale head coach Dennis Kubat said. “We have nothing to lose. You got to play like that.”
The series started Tuesday in Saskatoon. The Trojans host on Thursday before the series was to head back to Saskatoon for game three on Saturday. If needed, tentatively, game four would be on March 3 in Tisdale and the fifth contest on March 5 in Saskatoon. When asked what the team is focusing on heading into the series, Kubat said:
“Getting a good start and just playing with confidence. Playing big boy hockey. Just enjoying the playoffs.”
The head coach, who played midget AAA hockey and went on to the junior and university levels, emphasized that he wants his players to enjoy the postseason.
“It’s the best time of year to play hockey in my opinion. You play all year to make the playoffs. You’re in the playoffs. It’s a whole new ball game. … Standings don’t matter. It’s whoever can win the three games first. Hopefully our guys bring the best effort. That’s all we can ask for.”
Kubat said he likes the demeanour of his team as it heads into the postseason. Veteran forward Trenton Curtis said:
“Playoffs are always very exciting. We have been looking forward for this for a while and we know that anything can happen in playoffs and we can’t wait for it to start. … We are at the point we’re everyone is buying in and ready to win some hockey games.”
Last season the Blazers beat the Trojans in the league semifinals. However, Tisdale bounced back to win the Telus Cup Western Regional at home and earn the bronze medals at the national midget AAA championships in Ontario. Curtis said he is looking forward to meeting the Blazers again.
Saskatoon has held the upper hand against the Trojans this season. They won all four games of the season series and outscored Tisdale, 13-1, in the first three games. However, on Sunday, after falling behind, 2-0 early, the Trojans had a strong final two periods in a 3-1 loss. Kubat said it was important for the team’s confidence.
“Just bringing that confidence that you can play with these guys if we play the right way is huge.”
As well, the head coach emphasized, “We can’t give teams like Saskatoon a 2-0 lead early on. It gives them confidence. Those teams are tough to score on. We got to find a way to be ready to go right from the warmup right to the end of the game.”
The 2019-2020 regular season was one of growth for the Trojans. Many young players – Tuesday was to be the first SMAAAHL playoff action for 12 Trojans – learned the ropes of the competitive league while trying to contribute. The Trojans faced adversity – a 2-0 start followed by seven losses.
“Our record after that is pretty successful all in all,” Kubat said.
There are countless bright spots the coaching staff can point to. Captain Kalen Ukrainetz because the team’s career points and goal producer. He led the team with 33 goals and 63 points in 41 games this season. Curtis finished second in points with 51 after posting 38 as a rookie. After having eight goals and 18 points last season, Mackenzie Carson exploded for 31 goals and 44 points.
All three are among the valued Trojans veterans, but many young players also enjoyed strong seasons. Rookie goaltender Hunter Lolacher, with 15 wins and a 3.22 goals against average, was “unbelievable for us all year,” Kubat said. Noah Wills was the team’s top rookie scorer with 36 points. Carter Briltz posted 25 points as a 15-year-old. Kylynn Olafson scored four goals over his last six games played. The list of accomplishments goes on …
“With our 15 and 16-year-olds coming back, we are excited about that crew and just looking forward to the future of the Trojans program,” Kubat said.
The development and growth did not just take place with the players. Kubat, general manager Cole Simpson, and assistant coaches Daven Smith and Rob Pollon were all in their first seasons in their current positions with the team.
“I think as a coaching staff we learned a ton on and off the ice – how to be better coaches and what it takes to coach in this league,” Kubat said. “Hopefully going forward … just getting that experience will really help us.”
The Trojans last week
Wednesday, Feb. 19 in Tisdale
Tisdale 7, Yorkton 4
Tisdale Scorers: Mario Fortier (2), Kalen Ukrainetz, Mackenzie Carson, Kylynn Olafson, Zac Robins, Kayden Ostrom
Maulers Scorers: Rjys Maksimow, Blake Samida, Kai Joorisity, Massen Ziola
Goalies: Boston Gelowitz, Tisdale, 17 saves on 21 shots; Ty Shumanski, Yorkton, 45 on 52
Notes: After a 2-1 first period lead, the Trojans outscored the Maulers, 4-2, in the second. Fortier, Ukrainetz, and Ethan Lang all had three points.
Sunday, Feb. 22 in Saskatoon
Saskatoon Blazers 3, Tisdale 1
Trojans Scorers: Kylynn Olafson
Blazers Scorers: Tyson Wouters, Alec Saretzky, Hayden Wilm
Goalies: Boston Gelowitz, Tisdale, 24 saves on 27 shots; Brett Mirwald, Saskatoon, 32 on 33
Notes: Saskatoon took a 2-0 first period lead. Olafson scored his third goal in three games in the second period.
Logan Foster (2015-16) was named the Global Ag Risk Division Most Valuable Player. He is now up for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s MVP award. The Humboldt Broncos forward leads his team with 73 points, including 27 goals, in 55 games, as of Sunday.
The Tisdale Trojans (22-19-1-1) take on the Saskatoon Blazers (33-9-1-1) in the first round of the playoffs. The second seeded Blazers hosted the first game on Tuesday. The Trojans, the seventh seed, play host of game two on Thursday. The third contest of the five game series is in Saskatoon on Saturday.