Beardy's Blackhawks give P.A. players Midget-AAA opportunity

Andrew Schopp
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Left to right: Beardy's Blackhawks Daylin Smallchild, Adam Hergott, Reed Gunville and Bryson Aistine. Hergott, Gunville and Aistine are all natives of Prince Albert while Smallchild is originally from Beardy's before moving to P.A. The quartet have tallied a combined 35 points in 95 games this season for the Blackhawks. Herald photo by Andrew Schopp 

When Beardy’s Blackhawks defenceman Adam Hergott and centre Reed Gunville take to the ice against the Prince Albert Mintos at the Art Hauser Centre, they’ve got something to prove.

Hergott and Gunville, who were both cut from Mintos tryouts in the past make up half of a quartet of players on the Blackhawks roster who call Prince Albert home, along with defencemen Bryson Aistine and Daylin Smallchild.

Gunville said there is always something special about stepping onto the ice of the Art Hauser Centre to take on his hometown team.

“It’s an easy game to get pumped up for,” Gunville said of coming into the Art Hauser Centre as a Blackhawk to take on the Mintos. “Part of you wants to prove them (Mintos) wrong for cutting you in previous years.”

Based in the Saskatchewan Midget-AAA Hockey League’s (SMAAAHL) smallest market of Duck Lake on the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation Reserve, the Blackhawks quartet, who all live in Prince Albert, make the 40- minute drive from P.A. to Beardy’s for all home games and practises.

Aistine said, playing for the Blackhawks comes with a unique sense of pride that sets them apart from the SMAAAHL’s other teams.

“I think there is a lot more pride when you play for Beardy’s because you picked the team, they didn’t pick you,” Aistine said. “If you want to play there you told them, that’s the whole thing about being here. People who play in Beardy’s want to be here, that’s what I like about them.”

Hergott, Gunville, Aistine and Smallchild combine for 35 points in 95 games for the Blackhawks this season with Gunville leading the pack, posting eight goals and five assists.

Smallchild, originally from Beardy’s, grew up with the team before moving to Prince Albert.

“I’ve been watching the Blackhawks all my life so it was my goal to make the team and Midget-AAA,” Smallchild said.

While the majority of teams in the league tend to recruit players locally and from surrounding areas, the Blackhawks are unique in that their roster is comprised mostly of players from outside the reserve throughout northern Saskatchewan.

Other than the Mintos, the Blackhawks house more players hailing from Prince Albert than any other team in the league, affording players who might not otherwise have the opportunity elsewhere, to compete at the Midget-AAA level.

“I always tried out for the Mintos and it just never really worked out,” Hergott said. “Beardy’s was another option because they are close. I thought I’d give them a try and it worked out.”

Gunville, now in his second season with the Blackhawks, faced a similar situation.

“The Mintos told me they couldn’t commit to me, so I went out to Beardy’s,” explained Gunville who scored a goal in the Blackhawks last tilt with the Mintos, a loss 3-2 on Dec. 19. at the Art Hauser Centre.

The Blackhawks struggled last season, posting a record of 2-39-1-2, finishing last place in the standings. The team is on the road towards improvement however, with a record of 5-18-1-1 this season, as they struggle to emerge from the SMAAAHL basement.

Winless against the Mintos in three meetings so far this season, the four Prince Albert natives will have one last crack at their hometown squad as the Blackhawks take on the Mintos for the final time of the regular season on Jan. 30 at the Willow Cree Memorial in Beardy’s.

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