Another hockey season, another first place finish for the Sask West Hockey League's Wilkie Outlaws. They ended the regular season in first place for the fourth year in a row after making a comeback in the standings over the last few weeks of the season to pass the Kindersley Klippers.
Wilkie has landed the top spot in the table every year they have played in the SWHL since joining in 2014-2015. They have also won the league championship each year ever since and are aiming to win a fourth title.
Derek Keller, who is a defenceman and coach for the Outlaws, has had the last few days to reflect on the regular season after their last game onm the schedule was an 11-0 blowout over the Biggar Nationals. An iron man for the Outlaws this winter, Keller managed to play every single game on their schedule for the first time since becoming a member of Wilkie's senior team. He finished fifth in team scoring with 8 goals and 21 assists while helping lead an explosive offence from the back and act as a brick wall on the defensive side of the game.
The team has had the opportunity to rest up and practice this week ahead of the hectic next couple months as they gear up for the tough road ahead with provincials and league playoffs. Looking back the year, Derek admitts this season was one of their most difficult to date.
With the end of the regular season came the announcement of nominees for the 2018-2019 SWHL Awards. Following another successful first half to the campaign, Keller was nominated for the Top Defenceman Award with Alex Cheveldave from Macklin, Curtis Piecowye from Biggar and Brody Ryberg from Kindersley. He was also named to the All-Star Team Defence list.
Other nominees from the Outlaws include Brett Harrison (League's Most Valuable Player), Brock Harrison (Most Gentlemanly Award), and Ryne Keller (Best Defensive Forward Award). Brock and Brett Harrison are on the All-Star Fowards' list while Will Rathje is alongside Derek on the All-Star Defence selectees.
The four-time, reigning Top Defenceman Award winner speaks about the nominations him and his teammates received from the rest of the league.
But for now, the Outlaws are only focusing on their immediate future. As a result of finishing in first, they have a bye in the quarterfinals of league playoffs and have automatically picked up a spot in the semifinals. While they await the first round series to complete, the Outlaws have their attention turned to the opening round of provincials.
Wilkie drew the Rosthern Wheat Kings of the Twin Rivers Hockey League for their quarterfinal matchup in the Senior B tournament. Keller had a chance to share his thoughts on their matchup with the Wheat Kings.
Rosthern completed the 2018-2019 schedule with a record of 15 wins and 3 losses, enough for them to claim the top seed in their respective league. It will be a busy weekend for them as they play three games in three nights; Game 1 of their league playoff series versus the Hague Royals is tomorrow night at home, Game 1 of provincials against the Outlaws is Saturday at the Wilkie Community Centre, and then they cap off the weekend with Game 2 against the Royals in Hague.
The first game between the Wheat Kings starts up at 8:00 p.m. with Game 2 in Rosthern on Sunday, February 17th at 7:00 p.m. from the Jubilee Sports Centre.