By Colin Gaumont
Another record-breaking season for the Ooks men’s hockey team sitting atop the ACAC standings with a 21-3 record and 42 points on the season.
Forward Jake Mykitiuk is leading the way with 50 points on the season and forward Jared Legien is leading the ACAC in goals with 28 in 24 GP. With these impressive numbers, head coach Tim Fragle feels that the team has met the goals set at the beginning of the season.
“We are where we wanted to be. Our goal was to finish in the top two and get that first round bye,” said Coach Fragle.
“We are currently sitting in first so we are there but Red Deer College and MacEwan University are right behind us.”
Last season, The Ooks finished first in the league with a 20-7 record but lost in the finals to Macewan University. Fragle sees the focus to playing better defensively as the main difference between last season to this season.
“This years team is more defensive than we have had in the past. It’s a combination of our goaltending and defensive core,” said Coach Fragle.
“A better buy-in by our team as a whole. We aren’t allowing as many goals as we did last year,” said Fragle.
With 120 goals for and only 45 goals against, the focus on defense has seemed to paid off for the Ooks. Goaltending has been a big part of the team’s success. Jordan Papirny is leading the way with a 1.73 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage. Fragle feels having three solid goalies has contributed to their success.
“Our goaltending has been really strong this year. We have three really good goalies,” Fragle said.
Another area that has been a focus for Coach Fragle was special teams and both have been strong areas of his teams game.
“Our power play and penalty kill are both stronger this year than they were last year,” said Fragle.
“It’s not even close. We are way better in both situations. We, as coaches, have spent more time on it and seem to have a better understanding of what we want for the power play and the penalty kill.”
The last couple seasons have been ACAC record breaking numbers for the Ooks. However, Coach Fragle sees being successful in March as what is most important no matter what the numbers show.
“Numbers are important for metrics to see how your season is going,” said Fragle.
“However, over the last three years, we’ve had good teams but didn’t play our best in March and ultimately that’s our goal. We’ve fallen short the last couple years because we weren’t at our best. That’s what I’m challenging our guys in right now. We want to be our best in March. That’s when we want to peak.”
Fragle, a NAIT Ooks Alumni who was team captain for two seasons, reflects on how much the program has changed and how he works to make the program stronger.
“The attention to detail from the athletics program and the hockey program itself has changed immensely. There is so much support provided. From strength and conditioning to academic support, there is so much opportunity to get better everyday,” said Fragle.
“Back when I was playing, it was more on your shoulders. Now, as coaches, we offer so much for student athletes to be successful.”
Academics are much more important than they used to be. Coach Fragle believes that the numbers just show that academic success and athletic success go hand in hand.
“The proof is in the academic results. Men’s hockey this last semester had a team GPA of 3.1,” said Fragle.
“[We] are managing 26 guys, and to keep them on their grades is something we are really proud of. Back in the day, it was hockey first but now it’s shifted to academics first and hockey second, which at the end of the day they are here to get an education,” said Fragle.
At 21-3 and impressive 11-1 record at home, the team is proud of what they accomplished. However, Fragle says you can celebrate these achievements only once the season is over.
“I think you [celebrate] at the end of the year since we have had some setbacks the last couple years where we haven’t won that final game. That’s what we are more focused on,” said Fragle.
“The last three years, where we finished first but lost in the finals. I look back and say those were really good years but we just lost on the wrong game. So overall, it’s definitely the big picture and where are we going to be in March,” said Fragle.
The team will be wrapping up its final games at the end of February and preparing themselves for the playoffs.
It’s been another strong year for the Ooks men’s hockey team but the main focus for them will be winning that last game of the year.