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Long time Unity-Wilkie friendship connection brings U of S Huskies hockey to Unity

As a result of a long-time friendship that involves a U of S coaching staff member Unity was able to host a CIS women's hockey game featuring the U of S women's hockey team on Oct. 2.

UNITY - Former Wilkie resident, Nolan Horbach, on the coaching staff of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, contacted long-time friend, Tyler Gilbert, to present an opportunity for Unity to host an off-site CIS game.

Gilbert told the Press-Herald he used to play hockey with Horbach and through their long-time friendship, and Horbach’s connection with this university women’s hockey team, the subject of the opportunity to host a game of this magnitude in Unity was born.

Unity is no stranger to hosting big events whether they be in town, on the diamonds or at the rink. Past arena events are noted at the arena, none more prominent than the pre-tournament IIHF game in 2009 featuring Austria vs Latvia.

Once again, Unity was the host community for a CIS women’s hockey game between the U of S Huskies and the MacEwan Griffins held the afternoon of Oct. 2.

Organized and hosted by Unity Minor Hockey, the game also included a girls mini hockey camp with some of the U of S team, with 25 girls attending. UMH President, Dan Feser, said, “These girls got to share the ice with some of the best hockey players in Western Canada and what a great experience for them.”

One participant said, “It was so fun to be out there with all girls and the instructors were fun while teaching us at the same time.”

Speaking to the Press-Herald, Kori Herner, who was part of the U of S Huskies hockey program for five years from 2013-2018, has a sister Jessie now part of the current Huskies hockey squad.

“I think that for young females in a small town a game like this shows them the opportunities and potential the game has for them. In a small town not all females have the chance to play on an all-female team or even have an all-female team to go and watch. It shows females that they too someday could be playing at the USPORT level. It is a great way to showcase women’s hockey and how far it has come along over the years and to continue to grow women’s hockey for the future. The teams that they are watching are role models for the girls to look up to and strive to be like someday.”

A crowd of just over 100 attended the afternoon game with both teams showcasing their strengths in a display of both the best of their offence and defence.

UMH President, Dan Feser, for this Press-Herald interview says, “The game was actually a thing pre-pandemic. Because we are halfway(ish) between Saskatoon and Edmonton it was brought up by Nolan Horbach of U of S, a former Wilkie resident and friends with Tyler Gilbert. Through their conversations this game was born.”

“We are responsible for all the expenses of the game and would get any of the proceeds if there are any. For us this wasn't a money-maker. Breaking even is a win. It's a chance to expose local hockey fans to a very high calibre of hockey and showing the female players of the area what is possible for them,“ said Feser.

UMH felt very fortunate for the ongoing support of local business as the North West Terminal sponsored the ice while Gilbert Agencies guaranteed the 50/50 jackpot at $750.

“We are hoping to make this an annual thing. We want to blow the doors off the two schools, show off our wonderfully renovated rink and make this something they mark on their calendar. A lot of work from an incredible executive but that's what I love about our group. We just do.”

Following the game, the U of S ladies team presented Unity Minor Hockey with a team signed jersey as a token of appreciation for playing host. The Huskies won the game 3 - 1.