3 P.A. play­ers to rep­re­sent team Sask.

Pro­vin­cial team looks to im­prove on 2016 bronze-medal loss

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - SPORTS - EVAN RADFORD @EvanRad­ford • sports@pa­her­ald.sk.ca

Hard work pays off.

That’s the motto Ethan Iron­side has come to adopt in pur­su­ing his hockey goals.

Now with the Saska­toon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, the 15-year-old for­ward found out on Wed­nes­day he’s been se­lected to rep­re­sent Saskatchewan at the up­com­ing WHL Cup in Cal­gary.

The an­nual, round-robin tour­na­ment hosts the top un­der-16-aged play­ers from Canada’s four western prov­inces.

Iron­side was ex­u­ber­ant when re­flect­ing on his se­lec­tion to the pro­vin­cial team.

“I’m so happy. I worked so hard to get this re­ward,” he said from Saska­toon af­ter a Blazers prac­tice.

The Prince Al­bert na­tive also dou­bles as a goalie in box lacrosse, when he’s not play­ing hockey.

That gives Iron­side a unique skillset, ac­cord­ing to Blazers head coach Scott Scis­sons.

“He’s fear­less. It just goes to his char­ac­ter and his re­solve,” he said.

Scis­sons noted that he sees a rare com­bi­na­tion of tough­ness, drive and ver­sa­til­ity in the young for­ward, which he ex­pects will help team Saskatchewan in a big way.

Iron­side said he ex­pects the pro­vin­cial team to com­pete for a medal at the tour­na­ment, and that he’s look­ing for­ward to play­ing along­side Alex Ozar and Josh Pil­lar of the Prince Al­bert Min­tos, both of whom were also se­lected to the pro­vin­cial squad.

“I grew up play­ing hockey with (Ozar) in Prince Al­bert,” Iron­side said.

As a sta­bi­liz­ing de­fence­man, Ozar said he wants to en­sure his for­wards get the sup­port they need to cre­ate scor­ing chances.

“Just play my game, be sim­ple, move the puck up and hope­fully that’ll be enough to win the games,” he said.

“He’s gotta get a lit­tle bit stronger, but you know he’s only 15. But he’s a nice skater, and he’s a heads-up guy,” Min­tos head coach Ken Mor­ri­son said of his de­fence­man’s se­lec­tion.

As for Pil­lar, Mor­ri­son said, “he’s an ex­cep­tional skater. If you watch him out there, he can fly. He’s only 15 and he’s a premier skater out there … It’s tough as a 15-year-old in this league at the begin­ning, but he’s do­ing well.”

Pil­lar re­called how he and Ozar found out about their mak­ing the team – check­ing on­line while in class.

“Just in so­cial stud­ies class – we found out and were just re­ally ex­cited,” he said.

All three play­ers have set the next stage for their tran­si­tion to ju­nior hockey: They’ve all been drafted by WHL teams.

The Kam­loops Blazers se­lected Pil­lar 14th over­all in the first round of the 2017 ban­tam draft; the team also se­lected Iron­side 168th over­all in the eighth round of the draft.

Mean­while, the Saska­toon Blades picked Ozar in the fifth round of the draft, 109th over­all.

EVAN RADFORD/DAILY HER­ALD

Prince Al­bert Min­tos for­ward Josh Pil­lar tries to carry the puck be­tween two Saska­toon Con­tacts de­fend­ers.

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