Latest posts by Michael Christianson (see all)
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By Michael Christianson
The Dryden GM Ice Dogs are entering into the playoffs coming off a strong season but for nine of the Dogs this will be their last shot at a championship.
In Junior A hockey the 20 year olds are the oldest players in the room and this year a number of star Ice Dogs are playing their final year.
“You get a whole different look on the season, these last couple games here are pretty weird just knowing that these might be the last chances you ever have to put on a jersey in a competitive game so you just want to make every moment count and enjoy it because it goes by quick,” said team captain Derek McPhail.
McPhail has played all five of his junior years in Dryden and says he has absolutely no regrets. Looking back over his career he recalls the team’s trip to the Dudley Hewitt Cup when he was 18 as a big experience for him. McPhail is considering studying in the trades for his post-secondary education.
Jake Gushu joined the team this year after playing for the English River Miners. Coming from Vancouver he feels playing in northern Ontario has made him more humble.
“Right now it’s a little scary, little bit shell shocked it’s coming to an end here but it’s been a fun ride, a lot of experiences a lot of funny times I can tell everyone when I’m older,” said Gushu. “I can confidentially say I’ve been through it all, had a couple years in junior B before I came out here. I got to see another part of Canada while playing hockey, it’s just a different way of life and it helped me grow as a person so I’m beyond thankful for my junior career.”
Gushu is looking to study physiotherapy.
20-year-old Lucas Robinson is currently fighting back from injury to get some playoff time. He says playing with the Ice Dogs has been a highlight of his career.
“When you first come into junior you don’t think about it too much even though older guys tell you it’s going to go quick but you kind of take it for granted. It’s been an awesome experience playing junior for five years and it’s a weird feeling to think it’s coming to an end.”
Centreman Braeden Allkins says this has been his most unique season. Leading the league in points Allkins says it’s easier to be better with good team mates.
“I’ve been fortunate to play five years of junior hockey, it’s been a pretty long ride, I’ve had a lot of fun, don’t have too many regrets about it,” said Allkins. “There’s nothing I love more than being around the guys every day, I just got to take advantage and make it go as long as I can now.”
Both of the Dryden GM Ice Dogs’ goalies are playing in their last season of junior A.
Patrick Zublick said it’s a position where you can get more credit, and criticism than you deserve.
“Looking back on it it definitely went by faster than you expected,” said Zubick. “When the 20 year old guys my first year were talking to me saying ‘don’t take it for granted, don’t blink it’ll go by fast’ and I didn’t believe them but now that I’m in that position it definitely went by much faster than I thought it would.”
Ben Dennis, the team’s other goalie, says it has been incredible to be on this team.
“There’s too many great memories to single out just one but over the years it’s been an awesome experience, met lots of good guys, lots of friends, it’s been awesome,” said Dennis.
Newer additions to the team who have made a strong impact are Garret Graham and Colton Sandboe. Graham, who is from Colorado, says he has been spending extra time around the rink before it’s over.
“I never thought it would come so fast, I’ve always seen guys say enjoy your first year and that’s what I’ve been trying to do and hopefully we make a run here,” said Graham.
Sandboe joined the team at the deadline and felt at home as soon as he arrived.
“It’s been a good career but it’s sad it’s coming to an end, not too much longer so hopefully we can win it all this year,” said Sandboe.
Every player wished to thank all the fans and volunteers who support the team every day but Nic Nosworthy summed it up best.
“Before I came here I didn’t know about Dryden, Kenora, really Thunder Bay to be honest, now that I came here I’m so happy I did,” said Nosworthy. “This town is so behind our team and it’s amazing. I just want to say thank you for everything, the highs and the lows, you guys have always been there. I expect nothing less than to leave this town with a championship.”