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Terrier 50th: Stevely returns to roots after WHL stint

Week #13 comes from March 9, 1996.
Derek Stevely as a Yorkton Terrier in 1996.

YORKTON -  The Yorkton Junior Terriers are celebrating 50 years in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season. 

To mark the milestone Yorkton This Week is digging into its archives and pulling out a random Terrier-related article from the past five decades of reporting on the team, and will be running one each week, just as it originally appeared. 

This feature will appear weekly over the entire season in the pages of The Marketplace. 

Week #13 comes from March 9, 1996.

A strong friendship with former teammates drew Derek Stevely back to Yorkton.

Stevely, a native of Yorkton, has played hockey this season for the Yorkton Terriers after playing two seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Prince George (Victoria) Cougars.

The decision to come back was spurred by the memory of his time on the Parkland Maller AAAs.

He played with the Mallers for two seasons and won a national title with a team which included Terriers Neil Schell, Scott Prekaski, Jarred Skolnik, Rob Kozak and Lee Rusnak.

“It was a great experience in my life … and I won it with my friends also,” he pointed out.

He phoned his former teammates regularly during his WHL stint. It was during those conversations he learned of the success of the Terriers in the last two years and the fun his friends were having.

They were more like a team than the Cougars, Stevely felt.

“It was hard to play out there (Prince George) because they were more selfish players,” he said. “They had their own goals and there was no team attitude.”

Terrier head coach Lee Odelein did his part. He convinced Stevely, 19, to play for the Terriers after Stevely returned disappointed with his year in the WHL.

“I was talking to him during the summer,” Odelein explained. “We thought we were going to have a good team here and we felt he could add to it.”

And it was a chance to be with his teammates again.

“I have a lot of close friends here and it would make winning more enjoyable and losing all the more painful,” he related. “You want to win as bad for the team as you do for your friends.”

Stevely has helped make the Terriers the best team in the SJHL this season – the number six ranked team in the 10-league, 112-team Canadian Junior A Hockey League.

Stevely’s presence on the blue line, and WHL experience, gives the Terriers leadership and direction leading up to the playoffs, Odelein feels. And he’s earning the respect from the rest of the league, he added.

“He intimidates a lot of players,” Odelein explained.

“He’s always talking and he’s always in their faces.”

Stevely, who has over 150 minutes in penalties in 35 games this season, has acknowledged what role he plays on the ice – and relishes it.

“I’ve never been a skilled player … but I just think the main thing is I’ll do whatever it takes to win for the team,” he noted about his approach to the game.

“If (intimidation) is what they want me to do that’s what I’ll do,” added Stevely, who stands 6-foot-0 and weighs 200 pounds.

“You can’t play scared and there’s nobody in this league that scares me.”

That intimidation has played a big role in keeping the Terriers goals-against average down. After missing 25 games because of an early season shoulder injury, Stevely returned to the lineup and solidified the defence.

During the time he was out of the lineup the club was ninth in the league in goals against. Upon his return the Terrier defence has become stingier, allowing the fifth least goals-per-game in the SJHL at 3.29.

One of the benefactors of Stevely’s presence on the blue line, Terriers’ goaltender Scott Prekaski, notes the value of his old Maller teammate.

“We played together on that AAA team that won the Air Canada Cup and that helps having guys around that are winners,” Prekaski pointed out.

“He directs traffic around on defence and he’s making sure everyone takes a man,” Prekaski said. “Because he’s played two years in the WHL he knows what it takes to prevent goals.”