Kyle, Saskatchewan – a community nestled just north of Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park is known for being the discovery site of a 12,000 year-old wooly mammoth among other aspects. But over the last few years, the town's senior hockey team has really made a name for itself not only in the region, but throughout the province.
The Kyle Elks, who compete in the Saskatchewan Valley Hockey League, are coming off yet another campaign where they've won both the SVHL and Senior D provincial championships. They accomplished the same feat last winter too, making this the third time in four years they have claimed both provincial and league titles.
Despite pulling off the double once again, it was no picnic for the Elks. Anyone who is a part of hockey or who follows the sport knows teams need to kick it up a notch in order to be successful in the post-season; this year's matchups required the Elks to play some of their best hockey in order to reach their goals and evolve themselves into a Saskatchewan senior hockey dynasty.
Jim Marshall, who is an assistant coach for the team, has been a part of the Elks family since he was 15 years old. From playing with the organization to coaching, he's seen the ups and downs of the organization over the years. But when speaking about this year's team, he admits they are something special.
First on the agenda for the Elks was Lucky Lake Lakers when the 2019 SVHL Playoffs began in early February. The series turned out to be a lopsided affair for the defending SVHL champs as they easily disposed of the Lakers in two games, winning the best-of-three quarterfinal by outscoring the Lakers 17-3 between Games 1 and 2.
The next round was a tougher challenge for Kyle when they met the Outlook Ice Haws in the semis. Now a best-of-five, the Elks took the first two games to put themselves in a favourable position for another sweep to advance to the finals. But in Game 3, the Ice Hawks responded with a 5-4 win at the Kyle Sports Centre to put the series at 2-1 for the Elks. With a little fire in their bellies, the Elks showed up in Game 4 to end the series with a 10-2 blowout in Outlook, putting them back in the league championship.
That's where the Elks were lined up against last year's runners up – the Eston Ramblers. The Ramblers, who at this point came off a 5-4 overtime win in Game 5 over the Delisle Bruins to make the finals, were hungry for revenge after losing to the Elks in the 2018 championship series. Looking back on the matchup, Marshall offered his thoughts on what was an incredible five-game showdown with a worthy opponent.
In provincials, the Elks received a bye from the first round of the tournament since only seven teams were entered in for the Senior D bracket. The opportunity meant less hockey to worry about while they could focus on league playoffs.
The semifinals saw the Elks take on the Craik Warriors, a team from the Wheatland Senior Hockey League that advanced through their series win against Wawota. Based on total goals, the Elks routed the Warriors 9-1 in Game 1 in Craik, before taking Game 2 at home by a 6-3 final, putting the 2018 champions back in the provincial final.
There, the Elks were up against yet another difficult opponent in the Edam Three Stars, a team they have become very familiar with over the last couple years. Marshall explains how the series went.
The win over the Three Stars makes it back-to-back provincial banners for the Elks who won their series 2-0 in the latest installment of Edam versus Kyle. Following the win on Saturday in Kyle, the players and staff shared their joy on the ice with their families, friends and the rest of the fans at the Sports Centre.
With the hockey season now over, the players and staff can now take a much needed break to nurse their wounds they've sustained over the last few months and rest their bodies after their hard-fought accomplishments. Marshall mentioned that some the players and coaches can now spend some quality time with their families; some have already taking vacations following Saturday's banner-clinching victory on home ice.
It's a well-deserved break for the members of the organization. When talking to Marshall about the season as a whole, he praised his players and his colleagues for all the effort they've put in this hockey season. But with that in mind, he also wanted to thank another group of people for their dedication to the team throughout the winter.
He mentioned that the massive $5,000 50/50 raffle for Game 2 versus Edam was made possible by Dale McLaren from Kyle Agencies, saying that his support, along with their other corporate sponsors, was truly appreciated by the organization.
The SHA Senior D and SVHL championships will stay put in Kyle for another year. The Kyle Elks complete the 2018-2019 season with a total of 29 wins in 33 games.