3 P.A. players to represent team Sask.
Provincial team looks to improve on 2016 bronze-medal loss
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.
Prince Albert Mintos forward Josh Pillar tries to carry the puck between two Saskatoon Contacts defenders.