TISDALE — Growth and development will be key words for the Tisdale Trojans this season.
The Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League squad’s roster is packed with young, skilled players. General manager Cole Simpson, head coach Dennis Kubat, and their staff are excited to help the players develop their talent.
“Champions are not made in September,” said Kubat, whose squad kicks off the season on Sept. 21 at home against Swift Current.
The former junior and college hockey player said he has been impressed that his young squad is full of energy, wants to learn, and wants to get better. Kubat is looking forward to the Trojans growing as a team.
Last the season Tisdale posted a 32-7-4-1 regular record to finish second in the league standings. Although the Trojans fell in the SMAAAHL semifinals, they hosted and won the Telus Cup Western Regional Qualifier. The Tisdale team went on to claim the bronze medals at the Telus Cup national midget AAA championship tournament in Thunder Bay.
From that squad four or maybe five players are expected to return. Up front the Trojans had Kalen Ukrainetz and Mackenzie Carson competing in exhibition action last week. Ukrainetz was fourth on the team last season with 35 points, including 17 goals. Carson tallied 18 points with eight goals. On defence, the team plans to have Zac Robins, who had 13 points last season, and Jeremy Hancock back. Hancock had eight points for the Trojans and, this past summer, helped U16 Canada West win gold at the World Junior Ball Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.
“They are going to have to provide the leadership to our group,” Kubat said of the veterans. “They... know how to win a championship. They know the commitment and the dedication you need to be successful.”
To that veteran core, the Trojans have added third-year defenceman Rylan Donald. The 17-year-old had 12 points last season for Yorkton Maulers.
Kubat said all of the young players are working hard and learning. While the team draws players from around the province, it will have a number of athletes from the Northeast region.
Record-setting goaltender Tanner Martin, the SMAAAHL’s Top Goalie and Most Valuable Player Goalie, and his creasemate Bryson Garton both aged out. Sixteen-year-old Hunter Lolacher, from Pilot Butte, is expected to be one of the team’s netminders with the other spot is being worked out.
In front of the Trojans’ netminders, Kubat expects the team to play with speed, pace and skill.
“When they get into the offensive zone, I want them to use their creativity to their advantage,” he said.
Kubat acknowledged players will make mistakes, but they will learn from these and get better. Last season Jayden Wiens was a 15-year-old rookie who was adjusting to the league. At the end of the season, Kubat said, he was the team’s top forward. Wiens had six goals and two assists in seven games at the Telus Cup.
While Kubat, Simpson and the staff are excited about the team’s talent, they are perhaps even more pleased with its character. Kubat said he’s looking forward to the Trojans representing Tisdale the right way – on and off the ice.
“The best part of these guys is how well they do academically, and their billets are saying good things about them,” he said.