WILKIE — The Wilkie Outlaws were determined to avenge last year’s SWHL championship loss to Macklin Mohawks. It took four games to do so, but the Outlaws are league champions once again.
“We were treated to a fantastic final series between two teams that have developed a healthy rivalry in the SWHL.” says Joe Cye, Sask. West Hockey League president.
“Macklin and Wilkie both joined the SWHL in the 2014-15 season and now have faced off in the final series four times. Last year Macklin clinched the final in game four on Wilke’s ice, this year, the Outlaws reversed that, finishing the series in Macklin in game four.”
In the last nine years, Wilkie has won six SWHL titles and Macklin won in 2022. Seasons in 2020 and 2021 had no champions crowned due to COVID-19.
“These two senior teams have something in common,” Cey says. “A lot of home-grown local talent that play with heart. In all levels of hockey, home town heart wins over more talented teams over and over.”
The Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald and SASKTODAY.ca asked Cey what the key was to Wilke’s success in the series and his response was, “Veteran players that stay calm under pressure. Good team discipline, solid playoff goaltending from veteran Jared Herle, player coach Derek Keller who is arguably the best senior defenceman in the province. Sprinkle in that intangible of knowing what it takes to win and being lucky with no serious injuries, Wilkie is hard to beat.”
Fans in attendance in the final series are still raving about the goaltending showcase put on by Macklin’s Kyle Dumba. He stopped all 53 shots on net in the March 17 game helping secure the 2-0 shutout victory.
“I thought I'd count up how many shots he faced throughout the series - 205 shots in four games! He stopped 196 of them, earning the one shutout and forcing overtime twice,” Freelance reporter Helena Long reports.
In response to a question on the 2022-2023 SWHL season, Cey says, “We are striving for parity in the SWHL. Right now, Kindersley, Macklin, Wilkie and Edam are the teams that have a legitimate chance of winning the league. Kerrobert, Biggar, Hafford and Unity are not there yet. We hope to have all clubs back next season. The true marking stick for how our league is doing relative to other leagues in the province is provincial championships. The SWHL obviously still has some work to do because this season we have no winners in A, B, C, D senior provincials, (But we were close).”
Cey noted that having been in both Wilkie and Macklin rinks in the final series, it is clear senior hockey is alive and well in both towns as there were huge crowds, large 50/50 jackpots and old-fashioned good-natured rivalry amongst fans.
“Our playoff and provincial run was a bit of a rollercoaster so it was only fitting that we won in overtime,” says Derek Keller, Wilkie Outlaws player/coach.
“Our road had to go through some extremely tough teams; teams that play a hard, physical game so it took everything we had in us to finish off the season the right way. It had been a couple of years since we had won a championship and you almost forgot how hard it is to accomplish the feat, certainly something we won’t take for granted," added Keller
“I would like to thank Macklin’s manager, Bob Baier who initiated, in my opinion, the most important thing that happened this season, and that was the donations of game one and game two 50/50 jackpots to the Mark and Carolyn Fraess family. When the dust settles, there is nothing more important,” says Cey.
Cey also commends the men and women who provide the SWHL with top-notch officiating, along with volunteer scorekeepers and timekeepers that keep all the moving parts going as the league needs these people to operate efficiently.
SWHL fans said they feel they got their money’s worth this season with the calibre of senior hockey they could watch in their community, or if travelling to a neighbouring community for a game. Game three in Wilkie March 17, included a very full house of fans who were lined up outside the arena to get in. Fans came from Unity and surrounding communities with the 50/50 winner hailing from Paradise Hill, a testament to the draw of the teams competing for the title.