Thursday, 4 January 2018

Prince Albert’s mightiest Bear

Ashe follows in Manson’s strides in “Hockey Town North”

Jordan Ashe is a force on defence for the P.A. Northern Bears.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - Jordan Ashe originally wanted to be like number four Bobby Orr.
    When you play for one of Prince Albert’s elite hockey programs, number four takes on a whole different meaning. At the start of the 2014-15 season, Ashe cracked the roster of the Prince Albert Northern Bears of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League on a full-time basis and chose to wear number four.
    Ashe knew a little bit of Prince Albert’s hockey history and was aware Dave Manson donned number four and played defence for the WHL’s Raiders in the 1980s helping them win the Memorial Cup in 1985. The Raiders retired Manson’s number on Feb. 12, 2016, so Ashe has skated under his number four banner at the Art Hauser Centre for practices and games for almost two years now.
    She was aware Manson went on to have a lengthy career in the NHL that spanned 16 seasons, and in both the WHL and NHL, Manson became famous for his toughness. He wore number four at various times during his NHL days as well.
Jordan Ashe (#4) often finds herself around physical action.
    In her four complete seasons with the Bears, Ashe developed a reputation as being one of the toughest defenders in the SFMAAAHL. Standing 5-foot-9 and weighing a fit 171 pounds, the 17-year-old rearguard often physically overwhelms her opponents, and she isn’t afraid to throw the odd timely hit to get her team pumped up, even though bodychecking is penalized in the female game.
    Ashe never thought she would become a rugged defender when she joined the Bears, but she has enjoyed trying to emulate one of Prince Albert’s biggest hockey heroes in Manson, who is currently an associate coach with the Raiders.
    “If you think about it, it is like actually pretty cool,” said Ashe, who topped the Bears with 47 penalty minutes in 23 regular season games in 2016-17. “It is like it is kind of meant to happen I guess.
Jordan Ashe has career highs in goals and assists this season.
    “Coming to P.A., it was a good choice for me. I really like it here.”
    Ashe started playing minor hockey in her hometown of Debden, which is about 94 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert, at age 10 after following her younger brother, Dylan, into the sport. Jordan quickly discovered hockey was her true calling.
    “It seemed like way more fun than doing dance, which is what my parents put me in originally,” said Ashe. “I like the adrenaline rushes like going down the ice and making rushes.
    “I used to be a forward. I used to score lots of goals, not so much anymore, but that is OK. I still get to rush the puck.”
Jordan Ashe improved her all-around game since joining the Bears.
    During her minor hockey days in Debden, Ashe switched over to defence due to the fact her ability to skate backwards was better than any of her teammates. She hoped her offensive production would follow to her new position, which led to visions of emulating Orr.
    Ashe played on boys teams up through and including the 2013-14 campaign, when she also joined the female midget A team that was started up in town by her father, Mike.
    She gained her first experience of playing with the Bears in 2013-14, when she was called up for three regular season and seven playoff contests as an associate player.
    Ashe played more of a physical style during her early time with the Bears to compensate for the fact her skill set wasn’t as strong as her teammates.
Jordan Ashe recently played in her 100th career SFMAAAHL game.
    “I’ve always been a bigger player,” said Ashe, who has lived at a billet home in Prince Albert since joining the Bears full time. “You need to use that to your advantage.
    “I used to like not have that great a shot, not have the best hands. That (physical play) was just like an aspect of my game that was just always there for me, because I was always the taller, stronger player.”
    In her last two off-seasons, Ashe, whose family relocated to Warman, Sask., before the start of her first full season with the Bears, trained at Sadoway Conditioning in Saskatoon. Ashe said she felt way stronger physically on the ice last season and this season than she did in her first two full campaigns with the Bears.
    Her skill set on the ice has also advanced. In helping the Bears post a 17-3 regular season record in the current campaign, Ashe has posted career highs with seven goals and six assists.
Jordan Ashe, second from left, celebrates a Bears playoff goal last season.
    Ashe helped the Bears advance the female final at the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary on Monday. The Bears fell in that contest 6-2 to the Alberta based Rocky Mountain Raiders. Individually, Ashe was named to the tournament’s second all-star team on the female side.
    “Jordan (Ashe) has come along really nicely, especially this year,” said Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby. “Her offensive game has really blossomed.
    “She has always been a responsible defensive player, but her offensive game has just come along really nicely for her, so that is nice to see.”
    Willoughby said Ashe’s physical toughness is still one of her biggest assets of her game.
Jordan Ashe is solid at controlling the play with the puck on the back end.
    “You see her say go on a rush or defend our corner in our end (and) not too many players have their way with her,” said Willoughby. “She is not going to get beat out of the corner.
    “She is a definitely plus for our team.”
    By improving her all-around game, Ashe, who is an assistant captain with the Bears this season, actually began mirror Manson even more.
    While Manson was best known for piling up 2,792 penalty minutes in 1,103 NHL regular season games, his toughness reputation overshadowed the fact he was a good all-around player.
    A solid defensive defenceman, Manson was strong at controlling the play by bringing the puck up ice, could make a strong first pass to start an offensive rush, had a good shot, was popular among his teammates and was great in the dressing room.
Jordan Ashe has always been popular with her teammates.
    Ashe is also strong in her own zone and at controlling the play when she brings the puck up ice. She can make a strong first pass to start an offensive rush, has a good shot, is popular with her teammates and is great in the dressing room.
    Actually, Ashe has always gotten along well with teammates on any team she has been on or with other players at any hockey camp she has attended.
    “I think it is like my ability to have a conversation with somebody and be understanding to like whether they are sad or happy to be able to like joke with them and know my limits with that too,” said Ashe. “I think I’m just like good at having a conversation.”
    Ashe’s most memorable moment with the Bears came during their playoff run last season, where they won the SFMAAAHL championship and advanced to the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament.
Jordan Ashe, front centre, enjoyed the Bears run to the Esso Cup in 2017.
    In Game 2 of a best-of-three Western regional playdown series played on April 1, 2017 against the Hartney, Man., based Westman Wildcats, the Bears were behind 6-3 in the third period before rallying for a 7-6 victory to sweep the series 2-0. Ashe’s point shot with two minutes to play in the third period was tipped home by forward Brooklyn Anderson for the winning goal before a crowd of 1,200 at the Art Hauser Centre.
    Ashe couldn’t believe what it was like to play in the Esso Cup later that same month in Morden, Man.
    “I remember like walking into the dressing room at nationals, and it was all set up,” said Ashe, whose Bears went 2-3 at nationals. “We all had nametags.
    “I was like, ‘Holy cow this is actually happening.’ I think that is when it sunk in when we were going there.”
Jordan Ashe will join the Nipissing University Lakers next season.
    Next season, Ashe has committed to joining the Nipissing University Lakers women’s hockey team located in North Bay, Ont. The Lakers are one of the stronger clubs in U Sports’ Ontario University Athletics conference and are guided former NHL player Darren Turcotte as head coach.
    “I am extremely excited to get going with that,” said Ashe. “I love the school, and I love the girls there.
    “I went out for a couple of weeks visit, and the girls were all so nice, and everybody was so welcoming. I loved Darren (Turcotte) as a coach, because I skated with him a few times as well. I’m just overall really excited to get going.”
    While she is looking ahead to her university days, Ashe isn’t sure what it is going to be like when her career concludes with the Bears.
    “It is going to be really weird,” said Ashe, who has 12 goals and 15 assists in 100 career regular season games with the Bears. “It feels like I am still in my first year to be completely honest.
Jordan Ashe plans to soak in her final months with the Bears.
    “I’m going to cry a lot, and it is going to take me a while to move on I guess and leave the girls, especially like my good friends Alli (Soyko) and Abby (Soyko).
    “It is going to be tough, but time has to come I guess.”
    Until then, she still has eight regular season games and a last playoff run to look forward to with the Bears.
    They resume their regular season schedule on Jan. 13, when they travel to Melville to take on the Prairie Fire.

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