When he made the journey to Prince Albert two years ago to play for the Mintos after spending his rookie season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with the Swift Current Legionnaires, goaltender Carter Woodside wasn’t sure what to expect.
As the 18-year-old from Asquith made his final appearance with the team at their year-end banquet Saturday at the Carlton Park Community Hall, the decision to move north was one that he would make again.
“I’ve had a great time here and this organization is without a doubt the best in the league,” Woodside said.
“Everyone here makes you feel special and helps to make you feel as comfortable as possible. It can be tough when you move away from home at a young age, but being here as really allowed me to grow as a person.”
Woodside is one of four players who are aging out of the Mintos program, as defenceman Jake Huska and forwards Gavin Ingram and Andrew Schaab are also moving on.
“This was an awesome way to wrap up my minor hockey career,” Huska said. “It was a new experience for me to play away from home after playing for my hometown team (the Yorkton Maulers) last year and it was great to have a guy like Spencer Welke from Yorkton to help me in the transition.”
“It was everything I thought it would be and more so after spending the last couple of years Humboldt,’ Ingram added. “It’s the best year of hockey that I’ve ever had.”
Ingram, who is from Quill Lake, received the first Jacob Leicht Heart & Hustler Award on Saturday, which was named after the former Minto forward who lost his life in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident last year.
“It was a huge honour to get that award, especially with two of his teammates (Kade McMillen and Alex Moar) presenting it on behalf of Jacob’s parents,” Ingram said. “To be able to wear his number 11 this season really meant a lot to me.”
Ingram also shared the Yves Blais Scholastic Award with Woodside, while Huska received the dedication and commitment award.
Schaab, who was attending a Junior A camp in Alberta over the weekend, won the most sportsmanlike player trophy after he went the entire season without spending a single minute in the penalty box.
When it comes to the future plans for the graduating players, only Huska has a guaranteed spot for next season as he’s signed a letter of intent to play for the Kindersley Klippers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Ingram is slated to attend the Yorkton Terriers training camp and Woodside will look to earn a spot with the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats, but both players are keeping their options open.
Saturday’s other award winners were Gabe Klassen (rookie of the year and most valuable player), Alex Ozar (top defenceman), Chase Bertholet (top forward) and Welke (playoff MVP).
Although former head coach Ken Morrison was unable to attend the banquet, the team presented him with a signed jersey from the 2014 Telus Cup championship team that was worn by his son Loch.