Thursday, 7 March 2019

Last hurrah for special SFMAAAHL grad class

Allison Hayhurst has been the heart and soul of the Prairie Fire.
    This might be one of the most bittersweet playoffs in the history of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League due to the final hurrahs that will take place.
    As the SFMAAAHL post-season kicked into motion on Thursday night, the players from arguably one of the circuit’s most special grad classes are skating their final handful of games in their midget AAA careers. While these grads will be moving on after their various teams conclude their playoff runs, these games provide a great chance to see and salute a fantastic group of individuals.
    These playoffs feature five of the league’s top nine all-time leading scorers in regular season play. It is highly likely the SFMAAAHL won’t see something like this again during the rest of its history, or it will be a very long time before something like this happens again.
Taylor Lind left her mark as one of the SFMAAAHL’s all-time bests.
    The SFMAAAHL’s graduating class this season includes a well-respected defender who will likely be the last to hit a lofty games played total.
    The graduating class includes Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats star captain Taylor Lind.
    Lind finished her regular season career as the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL in regular season play. She piled up 93 goals and 77 assists for 170 points in 83 regular season games. The Shaunavon, Sask., product is the Wildcats all-time leader in career regular season goals, assists and points.
    For the second time in three seasons, Lind won the SFMAAAHL scoring title posting 29 goals and 31 assists for 60 points this season. Her assist and point totals are career highs.
    Next season, Lind is slated to the join the Lindenwood University Lions women’s hockey team in St. Charles, Missouri, in the NCAA ranks. She has one season of midget AAA eligibility remaining but is set to graduate high school a year early.
Grace Shirley has come through in many clutch moments for the Stars.
    If she did play another season, odds were good that she could have overtaken Olivia Howe as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL. Howe piled up 107 goals and 100 assists in 106 regular season games played with the Notre Dame Hounds from 2008 to 2012.
    A trio of stars from the Saskatoon Stars make up the special grad class.
    Captain Grace Shirley finished up as the third all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL in regular season play. She collected 97 goals and 69 assists for 166 points in 107 regular season games. She is the Stars all-time leader in career regular season goals and points.
    Anna Leschyshyn concluded regular season play as the fifth all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL. 
Anna Leschyshyn piled up 152 career regular season points.
    She recorded 72 goals and 80 assists for 152 points in 115 regular season games. Leschyshyn is just the fifth player in the history of the SFMAAAHL to record 80 or more career regular season assists.
    Joelle Fiala closes regular season play as the eighth all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL. She posted 47 goals and 83 assists for 130 points in 112 regular season games. She is the Stars all-time leader in career regular season assists.
    Shirley, Leschyshyn and Fiala have been key contributors in the Stars success over the last four seasons, which included appearing at the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament in 2016 and winning a silver medal at the Esso Cup last season. They will try to make the Stars march to the Esso Cup for the fourth time in five seasons.
    Prince Albert Northern Bears captain Abby Soyko finished as the ninth all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL. 
Joelle Fiala is the Stars all-time leader in career assists.
    She posted 65 goals and 63 assists for 128 points in 136 regular season games played for the Bears over five seasons. Soyko is the Bears all-time leader in regular season games played, goals and points and shares the team career regular season assists record with former Bears captain Kaitlin Willoughby.
    Willoughby, who plays professionally with the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, recorded 34 goals and 63 assists for 97 points playing in 96 career regular season games with the Bears from 2008 to 2013. At the moment, Willoughby is the captain of Canada’s women’s hockey team competing at the FISU Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
    The valedictorian of the class might be defender Allison Hayhurst from the Melville Prairie Fire.
Hayhurst became the third person in the history of the SFMAAAHL to play in 139 career regular season games. The other two players to hit that mark are both former Prairie Fire defenders.
    Karli Reeve suited up for 139 regular season games playing for the Prairie Fire from 2007 to 2011 collecting seven goals and 23 assists. Erin Armstrong, who was one of Hayhurst’s former teammates, played in all 140 of the Prairie Fire’s regular season games from 2013 to 2018 collecting six goals and 18 assists.
Abby Soyko pushed the Bears to new heights in her career.
    Hayhurst became a player who was sound at both ends of the ice. While being great defensively, the Wapella product had 22 goals and 47 assists for 69 points in her 139 career regular season games. She quarterbacked the power play for the Prairie Fire and was “the franchise” of that team.
    As the rules will be changed next season to further limit underage players from playing in the midget AAA ranks, Hayhurst might be the last player to play in 139 career regular season games. She will depart to the U Sports ranks next season playing for the Nipissing University Lakers women’s hockey team.
    The exploits of this grad class is special. Together, they ensured and are continuing to ensure in the post-season that the SFMAAAHL had an amazing and unique campaign in 2018-19. It is a campaign the likes of which the SFMAAAHL will never see again.
    NOTES – All three of the SFMAAAHL’s best-of-five quarter-final series began on Thursday. In Prince Albert, the visiting Hounds slipped past the host Northern Bears 3-2, the host Wildcats in Swift Current downed the visiting Battlefords Sharks 6-2 and the host Regina Rebels blanked the Prairie Fire 5-0. The Stars have a bye into a best-of-five semifinal series.

Hilltops’ “Sarge” named Sask Sport’s coach of the year

Tom Sargeant was named Sask Sport’s coach of the year.
    The Canadian Junior Football League’s coach of the year award has eluded Tom Sargeant since 2003, but Sask Sport named him tops in the province for a second time.
    On Wednesday, Sargeant, who is the legendary head coach of the Saskatoon Hilltops, was named the coach of the year by Sask Sports. The honour is given by Sask Sport to an outstanding coach in province’s amateur sport scene each year.
    This marks the second time Sargeant was named the coach of the year by Sask Sport. He took that same honour after the Hilltops CJFL championship campaign in 2012.
    In 2018, Sargeant led the Hilltops through what will go down as one of their most storied seasons in team history. On November 17, 2018, Sargeant guided the Hilltops to a 58-21 victory in the CJFL’s championship game – the Canadian Bowl – at Saskatoon Minor Football field.
    The win allowed the Hilltops to complete a perfect 11-0 season and become the first club ever to win five straight CJFL titles and eight CJFL championships over a nine year period.
    The 11-0 campaign marked the fourth time in team history the Hilltops posted a perfect season. The 2018 Hilltops had the distinction of only trailing on the scoreboard for a combined 81 seconds over the whole campaign.
    The championship win mark the 21st time the Hilltops captured the CJFL title. During his career with the Hilltops, Sargeant has 12 national championship rings as the Hilltops head coach, two as an assistant coach with the team and one as a player. His first championship ring as a player was earned way back in 1985.
    Besides holding down the duties as Hilltops head coach, Sargeant has been the Hilltops offensive coordinator in each of the past two seasons.
    Sargeant was deserving of the Sask Sport coach of the year award, and the honour is that much greater considering how many outstanding coaches there are in Saskatchewan across all amateur sports.
    Sargeant was the coach of the year for the Prairie Football Conference in 2018. He was named the CJFL coach of the year in 2000 and 2003.

Blades alum Holtby second fastest to 250 NHL wins

    Saskatoon Blades alum Braden Holtby hit an impressive milestone in his NHL career.
    On Wednesday, Holtby made 27 saves to back his defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to a 5-3 victory over the Flyer in Philadelphia. The 29-year-old product of Lloydminster, Sask., earned his 250th career NHL regular season victory that night.
    He hit that mark in his 409th game making him the second fastest player in the history of the NHL to reach that milestone. Legendary Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden was the only netminder to reach 250 fasters hitting that milestone in his 381st game.
    In his 409 NHL regular season games all with the Capitals, Holtby has posted a 250-105-39 record, a 2.47 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and 34 shutouts.
    So far this season, Holtby has record a 25-16-4 record, a 2.94 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts.
    During his time in the WHL, Holtby played for the Blades from 2006 to 2009 posting an 82-75-15 record, a 2.87 goals against average, a .905 save percentage and seven shutouts. He was selected by the Capitals in the fourth round and 93rd overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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