By Curtis J Phillips
Time to look at a few local hockey heroes playing in the post-secondary and semi-pro ranks.
Down south of the border, former Fort McMurray Oil Barons captain Carson Cooper enters his third year with the Yale Bulldogs.
His freshman year was highlighted by a NCAA Division I national hockey title, their first-ever, having defeated Quinnipiac Bobcats 4-1 in the Frozen Four final.
Cooper, a 5-foot-11 forward, suited up for all 37 games that season and was a top performer in penalty killing, while also having an assist in the semi-final OT goal against UMass Lowell.
Last season the injury bug hit, playing in 21 games only. He kept to the books though and was named ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team.
Showing you the world-wide popularity of hockey, Cooper is only one of two players on this year’s Yale roster that played their junior hockey in Canada.
More than 20 Oil Barons alumni are currently in post-secondary schools including Ben Lake at Sacred Heart.
Fort McMurray’s Quinn Gould, who played his Junior A hockey for Spruce Grove Saints and Westside Warriors, enters his fourth season with the Merrimack Warriors.
After three productive seasons with the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockley League, Fort McMurray born and raised Graham Smerek is skating into his second season with the Simon Fraser University men’s hockey program. Last year he had six goals and 12 assists in his rookie season for the Clan.
So far into the 2014-2015 campaign he has notched a goal and an assist in three games.
Also at the CIS level is Jaret Smith playing for the Nippissing Lakers.
After three years playing in the minors in North America, former Oil Barons’ star Tyler Gron (2007-2008) is now playing over in Italy for Milan-the same team in which former Oil Barons’ goalie Paul Dainton suited up for last year.
Also from the 2007-2008 Oil Barons roster we will find Jack MacLellan and Fort McMurray born Brad Stebner playing for the ECHL Stockton Thunder.
Other Oil Barons who suited up for the Thunder include Dave McCulloch (2005-2006).
The South Carolina Stingrays are now home for former MOB member Branden Gracel. The ECHL team has also had Fort McMurray flavour as Cory Cadden, Chad Seibel and Scott Basiuk all laced up for them at one time or another.
Jarret Lukin enters his ninth season of pro hockey this time wearing the uniform of the Evansville Iceman.
A Yale graduate, Brad Mills (Oil Barons 2002-2003) also enters year No. 9 in the semi-pro ranks collecting a paycheque in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Senators.
Mills also had a cup of coffee in the NHL playing 31 games with the New Jersey Devils 2010-2012.
These are just a few of the local hockey heroes still going strong.
Congrats to Keyano Huskies Athletes of the Week Harris Bajric of men’s soccer and Kika Greenlee of women’s basketball.
A second-year midfielder from London, Ontario, Bajric scored four goals this past weekend against the Kings Eagles and Concordia Thunder in respective 2-0 and 6-0 wins. He had a three goal performance in the Thunder decision.
He finished the season with 8 goals in 8 games with the Huskies undefeated with a record of 7 wins 3 ties 29 goals for 5 goals against as they advance to the 2014 ACAC Provincial Men’s Soccer Championships to be held October 24-25, 2014 in Lloydminster and hosted by the Lakeland Rustlers.
“It means a lot to finish undefeated. It is a huge accomplishment for the team and the college. We set a lot of goals and one of them was making (ACAC) provincials. We are coming closer as a team and a family. Right now we have to keep it the same. The same practices. The same mentality. We have to keep doing our thing.”
Greenlee accumulated 33 points in back-to-back wins against the host The Kings Eagles in Edmonton October 17-18, 2014 with the Huskies winning both games 62-41 and 67-44 respectively to open the 2014-2015 ACAC regular season.
“She was fantastic both games. She is such a fantastic team player in that she can play any position and she is a tough matchup.” Dwayne Vigilance Keyano Huskies Women’s Basketball head coach.
Greenlee is a 5-foot-7 guard/forward from Saint. Louis Park, Minnesota. In 2011-2012 she played for North Iowa Area Community College averaging 21.0 points per game in the NIACC earning All-Region Second Team honours.
She played the 2012-2013 season for Concordia University St Paul Bears where her best game was a 3 point 3 rebound performance in a 75-73 loss against William Penn.in NCAA Division II play.
Catch you on the rebound.