The NAIT Ooks men’s and women’s hockey teams have had outstanding seasons. Both squads aspired to take home a championship this year. The teams’ two points leaders, Jake Mykitiuk and Kendra Hanson, participated in that hunt.
Mykitiuk, a five-foot-seven, second year forward from St. Albert, started playing hockey when he was three years old. In his first season with the Ooks, he scored 10 goals and had 21 assists for 31 points.
“Last year, I had a little more responsibility for a first-year,” says Mykitiuk. “I was just trying to do my job and it worked out.”
Playing more minutes has contributed to his increased production in this, his second season. Mykitiuk has only played one more game than last year and has recorded 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points.
One of the reasons he believes his production has been better is the team chemistry.
“The closer you are with your teammates and the more you’re hanging out off the ice or joking around on the ice, I think that helps with your team chemistry.”
With his skill set, Mykitiuk has been able to play in the AJHL and WHL before coming to NAIT. The experience has been valuable to his growth as a player.
“You learn some things and carry it forward,” said Mykitiuk, in reference to his time in the WHL.
“That league is a grind. You take 20-hour bus rides. It really shapes up your mental [strength] a little bit,” continues Mykitiuk. “You have to be mentally in it to be in the season for that long.”
Kendra Hanson, from Thompson, Manitoba, is in her third year at NAIT. She scored 13 goals on just 16 shots during the season and had 13 assists. Hanson doesn’t feel like she’s done anything different this season, despite her increased points from last year.
“I’m not focused on points. When the points come, they come when I’m having fun. I perform the best when I’m having fun,” said Hanson.
She credits her success to one specific teammate: Verca Kuzelova.
“We just really generated off each other, whether it was a goal or an assist. She has a high hockey IQ and we see the smallest things on the ice that most players don’t see.”
Both Mykitiuk and Hanson have been extremely successful playing at a high level on the Ooks teams.
The ladies were shown an early exit during the ACAC playoffs. Last week, the men lost a three-game championship series to the Grant MacEwan Griffins. For that story, see page 11.
– Peter Go