Fourth-year forward Oleksyn to serve as Bears captain this season

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Northern Bears forward Paris Oleksyn and Saskatoon Stars defender Kalli Hiebert race down the ice on Saturday afternoon at the Art Hauser Centre.

Since joining the Prince Albert Northern Bears in 2017, Paris Oleksyn has developed into one of the top forwards in the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League.

The 17-year-old from Saskatoon has also become a leader for her team and has been named as the captain for the Bears for the 2020-21 campaign.

“It’s a huge honour,” Oleksyn said following Saturday’s 3-1 season-opening win over the Saskatoon Stars at the Art Hauser Centre. “I’ve talked a lot to previous captains like Hannah Koroll and Abby Soyko and to be able to be in the role that they’ve had is a major achievement.

“I learned a lot from them when I first started in the league about what it took to be a leader both on and off the ice and how to be a positive influence for the team.”

Oleksyn is taking over the captaincy from former forward Brooklyn Anderson, who has aged out of the Under-18 league and is now playing for the Trinity Western Spartans U Sports program in Langley, B.C.

Joining Oleksyn in this year’s leadership group are fellow forwards Haley Kicia, Kailey Ledoux and Rhea Peterson.

“What stands out to me about those four is their longevity with the program,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said. “Paris, Rhea and Haley are all in their fourth seasons with us and Kailey has been here for the last three years.

“They’ve been through a lot of practices and a lot of dryland training with us for the last few years, and my message to them is that it’s harvest time for them.  They are a strong group of veterans that will be leaned upon for their leadership.”

Oleksyn and the other returning players for the Bears have been helping their new teammates get up to speed over the last couple of months as the program welcomed nine new faces to their lineup.

“The biggest thing that we’ve told them is that there’s going to be some nerves when you start at this level, but once you get a couple of games under your feet those feelings will start to go away and you’ll have a really great time,” Oleksyn said.

“We do have a lot of rookies on this year’s roster, but I’ve been really surprised with how well they’ve been keeping up with the veterans. They’ve really looked up to us and I think that’s been huge in helping us grow as a team.”

In addition to putting up 56 points in 86 games for the Bears since entering the Under-18 circuit, Oleksyn also earned a silver medal with former teammates Anderson and Jasper Desmarais for Team Saskatchewan at last year’s Under-18 national championships in Winkler, Man.

While her main goal is to help the Bears earn a league championship and hoist the Esso Cup on home ice later this season, Oleksyn is also looking towards next year when she’ll enter the U Sports ranks for her hometown Saskatchewan Huskies.

“It’ll be a huge difference moving up to that level of hockey as the girls there are a lot bigger and stronger,” Oleksyn said.

“I’ve been working a lot on getting more muscle so that I’m able to control plays and I’ve also been focusing on using my speed more so that I can take advantage of my opportunities when I get them.”

After splitting their season-opening weekend with the Stars, the 1-1 Bears will return to action on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. when they’ll welcome the Battlefords Sharks to the Art Hauser Centre.

The two sides will then square off again in Battleford on Sunday afternoon.