By Orrin Farries
“This is the way [it] ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
These words by T.S. Eliot ring ever true for Tim Fragle’s dominant 2019-2020 men’s hockey team. The ACAC men’s hockey season concluded without a champion due to the ACAC shutting down all competition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My first emotion is feeling bad for our graduating players. We have nine guys graduating the program, we were a team that was built to win this year. When you lose nine players going into next year it’s going to be a big changeover. I just feel for them more than anything,” said Fragle.
“They didn’t know they played their last game when we played our last regular season game against MacEwan. A handful of them are going to try and play professionally, but for those guys that are graduating into the workforce, I feel for them.”
While the team is hurting that they didn’t get their chance to vindicate their hard work with a championship trophy, they should hang their heads high on what they accomplished this year.
“What we really liked this year in our game is that we saw some growth in our team game,” Fragle added.
“Our goals-for might not have been where we wanted to be. But our goals-against was the best in the league, that’s a good sign that you’re playing good defence, good structured team hockey,” said Fragle, reverent of his team’s work this year.
“We also felt like, okay we had two to three guys do a lot of scoring, don’t get me wrong, but if you look down our depth chart we had a lot of guys contribute with a lot of offence, whether it’s our forwards or defencemen. We try to stick to four lines and six defencemen and play our depth. But you know if people looked a little deeper too, there were a number of guys who averaged a point a game which is good in any league,” said Fragle.
“We won three of four games against MacEwan this year, which is definitely a good feat when they’re the defending champs and moving up to U-Sport,” said Fragle.
“Even in a loss [1-0 vs. RDC] in January, I felt good after that loss, like we could play that game over 10 times and win 10 out of 10 […] that game really showed our resilience and growth.”
“You look at the league awards, which are voted on by the other coaches in the league, and we are well represented on the all-conference teams and all the other individual award categories. That should be a fond memory too,” said Fragle.
“Another one of the things we never talk about enough, is that our team GPA was over 3.0. That’s 26 men going to school our GPA was over 3.0 and that’s the best it’s ever been since I’ve been here. Those are some of the successes that we can’t lose sight of even though we didn’t get a chance to win the championship this year.”
Tim Fragle was named ACAC men’s hockey coach of the year, owing to their 24-4 record and the numerous statistical feats that are deserving of plaudits.
Forward Jake Mykitiuk was named ACAC men’s hockey player of the year after receiving the ACAC top scorer award sponsored by CCM. Mykitiuk finished the season with 17 goals and 37 assists in 28 games, and finished his career at NAIT as it’s all-time points leader.
Rookie Jared Legien torched the nets this year with 32 goals and 16 assists en route to being named the ACAC men’s hockey rookie of the year. Legien also finished the year as an Academic All-Canadian with a 3.7 GPA in the millwork and carpentry program.
Captain and defenceman Colton Waltz was named the ACAC Men’s Hockey top-scholastic achiever, recording a 3.9 GPA in the Landscape and Architectural technologies program, also being named an Academic All-Canadian.
As well, NAIT had four of the six all conference first team selections, evidence of the strength of this Ooks team.
A note from the sports editor: I want to take this time to thank Tim Fragle and the men’s hockey team for their exceptional compliance of communication with The Nugget this year. They made my job as the sports editor easy as it pertained to covering the men’s hockey. While this season’s finality may not be easy to take, the NAIT Ooks men’s hockey team is in good hands with Tim Fragle at the helm and the legion of players who will bear the Ooks jersey in the years to come.