The Yorkton Terriers made quite the splash across the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last year when they made the league semifinal. To do so, they beat the top-ranked Nipawin Hawks in the quarterfinals in seven games.
Ryan Ouellette made 37 saves in that game to help the Terriers move on. They ended up dropping their semifinal series to the Battlefords North Stars, who went on to win the league.
After starting the season in the NAHL with the Minnesota Wilderness, Oullette is back with the Terriers. He’s been fantastic this year with a 1.79 GAA and a .955 save percentage.
Several other Terrier players from last year’s team also returned to the club this season including their leading scorer, Chantz Petruic. The Moose Jaw native had 84 points last season (32G) in just 56 regular-season games to finish fourth in league scoring. He also had another 11 playoff points (5G) in 14 games.
This year, the Terriers are 11-9-1. That gives them 23 points and sets them atop the Viterra Division by six points over the Weyburn Red Wings. Yorkton is also sixth in the league, and if the season were to end today, they would play the Flin Flon Bombers in the first round of the playoffs in the league’s new playoff format.
There will no longer be a Survivor Series. The top eight teams overall make the playoffs in a classic format. The top team will play the eighth-place team and so on and so forth.
“Things have been going good. We had a really slow start, but we’ve added a few pieces, and the motive in the room is to win a title,” said Petruic. “Just about every team is going to go through a slump throughout the year, so it was better that it happened to us earlier rather than later.”
“Now that the slump is over, we can just worry about moving forward and winning some games,” he continued.
The team finished with a 31-26-1 regular-season record last year. After the win against Nipawin in the playoffs, the club couldn’t really ever get it going against Battlefords as they were shutout twice. However, this year’s club offers up a few stars. Behind Petruic is where you’ll find Jordan Guiney and his 21 points.
The team has also acquired Alec Zawatsky who has 19 points (9G) in just 16 games. Zawatsky came to the team with 107 games of WHL experience where he scored 17 goals.
“We have good depth this year. We were a good team last year, but I don’t think we had the scoring depth that we do this season,” continued Petruic. “We’re all buying in right now, sticking with systems, and it seems to be working right now.”
Petruic, who played 55 games with his hometown Moose Jaw Warriors has certainly been the main contributor to the team’s success. He’s played in all 21 games and already has 43 points. That’s nine more than any other player in the league. The incredible start to the season includes averaging 2.05 points per game. The next closest skater that has played regularly is Flin Flon’s Alec Malo who’s averaging 1.74 points per game.
Chantz has five power-play goals and 21 overall goals. The 21 tallies are four more than any other skater.
Last year’s 84 points were his career-high. This year, Petruic is on pace to smash that with two-thirds of a season still remaining.
“I really tried to emphasize this summer to be the best player I could be, and I took care of my body,” said Petruic. “It’s a good feeling to see the results. My linemates have also been fantastic. They’ve really helped me succeed. It’s been really fun, and I just need to keep it going to help this team win games.”
“I’ve always been hard on myself since probably my first year in midget. I take a lot of pride in my game,” he continued. “I like to be that go-to guy. The team relies on me in certain situations, and I like that feeling. I’ll do whatever the coach asks me to do, and I’ll follow my strong suit, and if I do that, then success will follow.”
Being 20 years old, this year is Chantz’s last year as a junior-hockey player. The goal, for now, is to win a championship with Yorkton, but the goal moving forward is to play at the next level.
“I’ve been in contact with a few teams around,” added Petruic. “It’s kind of fun to think about what could happen moving forward. I want to play post-secondary. Where that is I don’t know, but we’ll see.”
“For now, I’m just playing hockey here in Yorkton and pushing to win the league,” he concluded.