The Prairie Hockey Academy, which has a slew of southwest talent on its roster, received some huge news earlier this week when they were announced as the 20th member of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
The academy, which is based in Caronport, started play this year with a hope of earning entry into the prestigious CSSHL and that hope became a reality on Tuesday.
“It’s really exciting for us at the academy, all the staff and especially the student-athletes that have worked hard this year,” said Justin Simpkins, PHA president. “We’ve been competing against a lot of the CSSHL teams already and seeing the caliber of that league and now to get out and get some exposure for our program, we’re excited.”
PHA has six players from Swift Current and the southwest on its roster:
G - Chase Coward, Swift Current (13 GP: no stats listed)
G - Ryley Gross, Hazenmore (8 GP: no stats listed)
D - Lane DeMars, Swift Current (21 GP: 2 A)
LW - Lang Lee, Swift Current (22 GP: 3 A)
LW - Tanner Funk, Swift Current (29 GP: 6 G, 10 A)
C/RW (Team Captain) Noah Schindel, Swift Current (26 GP: 9 G, 3 A)
As well, two members of the coaching staff have ties to the southwest corner of the province:
Goaltender Development Coach - Blake Voth (from Herbert, lives in Swift Current)
Director of Strength and Conditioning - Andy Schmidt (born and raised in Swift Current)
The CSSHL has been operating now for almost a decade, starting with five Hockey Canada Sport Schools, and after the addition of PHA, the league will now feature 20 academies across Western Canada.
PHA’s Elite 15 team has competed against a number of the other teams throughout their inaugural year and they will now get the opportunity to do that on a full-time basis starting next season.
“Being Saskatchewan’s only Hockey Canada Sport School, this gives us the opportunity to keep some of our talent in Saskatchewan to compete in the CSSHL and this has been our goal all along,” said Simpkins.
“The league was interested in seeing if there was interest in Saskatchewan for something like this. What they saw was a program that was operating well and a lot of the other programs spoke highly of playing us and how our players had developed on the ice.”
Simpkins added that their academic focus through Caronport High School was also a big contributing factor in them being selected to join the CSSHL.
PHA will field an Elite 15 team again next season, as well as a Midget Varsity team.
“With our current Elite 15s, we have ten bantam aged players on it, so it gives us the opportunity to keep a lot of those student athletes with us moving into that Elite 15 league, and then we already have 7-8 boys on our roster than can be a part of the Midget Varsity team,” said Simpkins.
Along with the contingent from the southwest, this year’s team was made of players from Moose Jaw, and other small communities around southern Saskatchewan. Simpkins added that he believes they will be able to expand their recruiting now with acceptance into the CSSHL.
“It makes a lot easier when your already a part of the league and you have a schedule and real clarity of the future for the team,” he said.
With acceptance into the CSSHL, PHA will also be hosting a showcase weekends for both teams, which will see multiple other academies come to Caronport for a weekend filled with games.
PHA has a few more games left on their schedule for this season, they will host the Edge Academy Bantam Prep team on February 24-25 in Caronport and then head to the Banff Hockey Academy Midget Varsity Tournament at the end of March.