With the 2018-19 Canada West season on the horizon, Bison men’s hockey head coach Mike Sirant sat down to discuss the club’s exciting new recruits and the pedigree they bring to the program.
Tyler Brown, Devon Skoleski and Mackenzie Dwyer will all join the Bisons this season, bringing a wealth of Western Hockey League (WHL) experience with them.
“It’s important for us to recruit the best players possible,” Sirant said. “That certainly adds credibility to our program and also we’re getting strong hockey pedigree.”
Sirant added that “in our program they can still develop” and that Canada West is “a next step from the [WHL] because now they’re playing against guys that are older and more experienced.”
“[The] Western Hockey League is an excellent league, obviously a very elite league,” he said.
“But now when you come to Canada West, you’re playing against guys 21 to 26 rather than 17 to 20, so there’s a big difference in players’ experience, their physical maturity.
“So it is a challenge for players coming from the [WHL] or the Manitoba Junior League to step up to Canada West Hockey.”
Brown, a goalie, comes to the Bisons after finishing his junior hockey career with the Saskatoon Blades. He spent four seasons with the Regina Pats before being traded to the Blades and has an 80-51-16 WHL record.
The 21-year-old led the Pats during a successful 2016-17 campaign. He posted a 33-8-1 record on the season as the Pats finished first in the league, losing to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Ed Chynoweth Cup final.
“We’re excited to have Tyler in our program,” Sirant said.
“With him it’s more for the future, because he underwent surgery this summer, and I know that he’s working very hard at the recovery, but we may not have an opportunity to use him that much this year.”
Brown’s recruitment solved a looming issue brought on by the coming graduation of goaltenders Byron Spriggs and Dasan Sydora at the end of the season.
In fact, Sirant said the decision to pursue Brown had that future in mind, as “it didn’t make sense to release a goalie or not recruit Tyler just because we had three goalies, because we had to look a year down the road when we’re losing two.”
Winger Skoleski joins the herd after four seasons split between the Everett Silvertips and Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, and the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL).
For Sirant, Skoleski’s time spent with the Silvertips was a big draw.
“Having played in Everett under coach Kevin Constantine, you know that Devon would’ve got a real foundation in defensive play,” Sirant said.
“Constantine as a coach is really a stickler for strong defensive fundamentals and foundation. So you know the coming from that background that Devon is going to be solid defensively, and we’ve seen that, he’s good in our zone.”
Sirant also said Skoleski excels at “leading the attack up-ice” with his speed and can “find teammates to advance the attack up-ice.”
Skoleski had 31 goals and 39 assists in the WHL and will look to carry that offensive upside over to U Sports, along with his defensive acumen.
The final recruit, defender Dwyer, also spent time with the Silvertips, and most recently played for the Portage Terriers of the MJHL.
Dwyer had a goal and three assists in the WHL, playing a more defensive role, but with the Terriers his offence flourished. The Winnipeg-born defender had 88 points — 16 goals and 72 assists — in his final two junior seasons.
“Mackenzie is a big defenceman that moves really well,” Sirant said.
“He’s a very good skater with good mobility, he sees the ice well, he can make plays. I like how he passes the puck with a real snap and firmness and […] he’s got a nice shot.”
The Bisons begin their season on the road, with a weekend series against the University of Calgary Dinos. Puck-drop for game one is Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 p.m. MDT with game two the following night at 7:00 p.m. MDT.