The NAIT men’s hockey team have rewritten their own history as they finish their storybook regular season unbeaten, the second time in its 51-year history. On the weekend, the Ooks took down the ACAC’s basement team, Briercrest Clippers, to polish off their season at 32-0.
On Friday night at the NAIT Arena, the Ooks scored eight times. Rookie Klarc Wilson scored his first hat trick of the season and fourth-year centre John Dunbar scored twice on the night. Briercrest gave their best shot at the game and scored once with a second to spare in the game for the buzzer beater but that was not enough to take down the Ooks, as they outshot Briercrest 55-15 to take the 8-1 home victory.
Saturday’s afternoon matinee proved to be much the same for the Ooks. Net-minder Brendan Jensen got his third start of the season and recorded a shutout. The Ooks lit the lamp eight times from six dif-ferent players, including a hat-trick from first-year Trace Elson, the first of his career. The Clippers made goalie changes but that didn’t help their game as the Ooks came out on top with an 8-0 victory to match their previous record of an unbeaten regular season (1984-85 Ooks went 25-0 in the regular season). It is a significant season not only for Elson but all the players, too.
“I’ve never been on a team that has done that,” says Elson. “It’s special for me, and obviously all the guys in there. Especially the fifth year guys that have been here for so long.”
This is also a memorable season for first-year head coach Mike Gabinet.
“I’m very proud of our team and pro-gram for an amazing accomplishment. When you see we were only the second team to do this in 51 years, it’s something pretty special. We will enjoy this and cele-brate it this weekend and then we are back to work on Monday to start preparing for the postseason.”
The Ooks hockey alumni are having fun watching the current Ooks. Clinton Senkow was a forward for NAIT from 2009 to 2013 and won the championship with the team in his final year. To say he is proud of his former team is an understatement.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the hockey program for the past seven years and have witnessed the program become a top college hockey destination in Canada.”
Senkow played with Kevin Carthy, current captain Scott Fellnermayr, Dante Borelli, Jordan Abt and Tyler Fench, who are all veterans of this year’s team. Senkow knows they still have work to do if they’re to win the championship for a second year in a row.
Senkow is now part of the Ooks Hockey Alumni Association.
“Today is a proud day to be an alumnus but their job isn’t finished yet,” he said.
The team has earned a first week bye heading into the playoffs but that doesn’t mean it’s a week off for them. They will prepare not only physically but mentally, as well. The Ooks begin their chase for another ACAC championship on March 11.
They get an automatic bye into the semifinals, which is a best-of-three series.