The 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games will give a younger crop of hockey players a chance to represent their zone when the games kick-off in Prince Albert on Feb. 16.
For the first time in the game’s history, the hockey program will feature bantam level players, as opposed to previous years when teams were composed of older players from the midget ranks.
Joel Houseman, technical director of hockey for the games, said this year’s event will be different, but thrilling.
“We are really excited to see how it’s going to look,” Houseman said of the new format featuring first year bantams in the male program and two bantam age groups in the female event. “The competition is going to be fantastic. There are a lot of good hockey players in the province and programs like this one bring them all together under one roof.”
Five Prince Albert bantam clubs are represented on the Lakeland District roster. The Prince Albert Venice House Raiders, Rebels, Rangers, Canadians and Stars combine for 11 players on the team.
On the female side, which features players born in 1999 and 2000, nine players from the Prince Albert Rangers, Foxes, Bears and Stars will represent the zone.
At the helm as coach for the Lakeland females is Jean Fauchon, coach of the Battlefords Sharks of the Saskatchewan Female Midget-AAA Hockey League. Behind the bench for the males is former AA Venice House Raiders coach Frank Fazio.
With two age groups competing in the female program, Houseman is interested to see how the two will meld.
“They have never really been split up against older kids,” Houseman said of the female program. “It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for them.”
Houseman is looking forward to seeing the on-ice product the new age groups present, saying it will be “fast, good hockey.”
“We are really excited to see how it’s going to look with the younger players,” he said. “Talking with the parents and the kids the past couple of months, I know they are really excited about the entire experience, it should be good.”
The decision to move to 14 and 15 year olds for the hockey program was put forward by the Games Council in an effort to maintain consistency in age of participants in all of the game’s 16 events.
The change, while presenting a whole new game in terms of on-ice competition, will also afford an opportunity for certain players to compete at a high level they might not have otherwise.
“There are a lot of AA players in this tournament but there are also a lot of good small town hockey players that haven’t come through or maybe haven’t moved away from home that don’t have the chance to play in AA,” Houseman said.
Matches in both the male and female programs will be played at three different venues; the Art Hauser Centre, Kinsmen Arena and Dave G. Stuart Arena.
Working closely with facility staff and the Games Council, Houseman said everything is all squared away for opening day.
“They all look very good,” Houseman said of the event’s venues. “Everything is coming together really good. It’s going to be really neat for the kids because it’s a once in a lifetime experience for them.”
Lakeland kicks things off for the males with the event’s opening match on Feb. 16 at Stuart Arena, as do the females on Feb. 19.
“The competition is very tight in these events because they’ve pooled all the top players form ever zone and we live in a province where there’s a lot of good hockey players,” Houseman said. “Every zone will be fun to watch. I hope the stands are packed and people come out.”
The Winters Games is seeking volunteers for all events. Those interested are encouraged to visit saskgames.ca to register.
Lakeland District Hockey Rosters
Coach: Frank Fazio
Landen Couture, Debden -- Debden Jets
Jory Ratcliffe, Tisdale -- Tisdale Ramblers
Talon Antoine, Duck Lake -- Beardys Blackhawks
Leighton Burns-Marion, Melfort -- North East Wolfpack
Brayden Dirks, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Venice House Raiders
Matthew Flodell, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Rangers
Caleb Grandfield , Nipawin -- North East Wolfpack
Tanner Hendriks, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Rebels
Aubrey Lloyd, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Stars
Owen Ozar, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Venice House Rangers
Ethan Regnier, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Venice House Rangers
Hunter Schnell, Hudson Bay -- Hudson Bay Hunters
Carrson Srudland, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Canadians
Beau Steveson, Melfort -- North East Wolfpack
Keldon Bird, Ahtahkakoop -- Shellbrook Elks
Hudson Goertz, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Rebels
Connor Hayward, Naicam -- North East Wolfpak
Jake Korluk, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Venice House Raiders
Evan LaClaire, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Rangers
Cody Lehner, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Canadians
Coach: Jean Fauchon
Ryan Fontaine, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Rangers
Hanna Jacobson, Meath Park -- Prince Albert Foxes
Jordan Ashe, Shell Lake -- Debden Jets
Cassidy Carlson, Air Ronge -- Prince Albert Bears
Cassidy Fehr, Hague -- Hague Royals
Taylor Fiske, Air Ronge -- Prince Albert Foxes
Brooke Hobson, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Bears
Danaka Kolybaba, Hudson Bay -- Tisdale Ramblers
Paige Ferguson, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Foxes
Brittany Hilkewich, Alvena -- Rosthern
Macie Kuppenbender, St. Louis -- Prince Albert Foxes
Codie Lum, Birch Hills, Prince Alber Foxes
Taylor Lyons, Birch Hills -- Melfort Mustangs
Melisa Mann, Tisdale -- Tisdale Ramblers
Tenesha Pompu, Carrot River -- Carrot River
Caragen Rokochy, Melfort -- Melfort Mustangs
Felicia Sewap, Kinistino -- Melfort Mustangs
Ireland South, Melfort -- Prince Albert Bears
Quinn Sturby, Gronlid -- Melfort Mustangs
Jaici Wiegers, Prince Albert -- Prince Albert Stars