PA’s Zablocki excited to play in Esso Cup in hometown

Photo submitted by Stryker Zablocki. Stryker Zablocki (pictured) took home the SFU18AAAHL rookie of the year award.

It was an outstanding season for both Prince Albert product Stryker Zablocki and the Regina Rebels.

Regina took home the Fedoruk Cup as champions of the Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey League (SFU18AAAHL) and Zablocki took home the Dana Antal award as the league’s top rookie.

Zablocki says she felt her rookie season went extremely well.

“Individually, I felt like I had a pretty strong year. Obviously, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates and my coaches, but I think the year went well for me.”

Zablocki is not the first player from Prince Albert to win top rookie honors in the SFU18AAAHL.

Karlee Lehner took home the award for the Swift Current Wildcats in the 2021-2022 campaign. Both Lehner and Zablocki played for the same U15AA Foxes team in Prince Albert in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“I thought it was pretty special.” Zablocki says about winning the award after Lehner.  “We played on the same team as well. So, it shows that there’s a lot of development that happens in PA and I think it was good for Karlee and I.”

It wasn’t an easy path to the Fedoruk Cup for the Regina Rebels. After earning a bye in the first round as the league’s number one seed, the Rebels went to a deciding Game 3 in their first round series against Notre Dame.

Regina pulled off the 1-0 victory in the deciding Game 3 to book a trip to the final against the Saskatoon Stars.

Regina took a 5-3 loss in Game 1 of the best-of-three SFU18AAAHL final and rallied to take the final two games to capture the league championship.

Zablocki says having to play extra games in the league playoffs was crucial for the team heading into the Western Regional.

“I think it helped us because we were able to realize that it’s not going to come very easily, and we need to work every game. That caught us a little off guard having to go to game three in both series. I think that was good for us to face a little adversity and just continue and to come out strong in regionals.”

In the Western regional hosted in Regina, the Rebels came away with a 4-3 victory in Game 1 against the Manitoba champion Winnipeg Ice thanks to a pair of goals from Zablocki in the third period.

Zablocki kept up her strong play with a trio of points, including a pair of third period goals in the Rebels 5-4 overtime victory that secured their spot as the Western region champion at the 2023 Esso Cup that will be hosted in Prince Albert starting Apr. 23.

Zablocki says she is looking forward to competing for a national championship in her hometown.

“I think I’m looking forward to the games and being able to play every top team from every region. I think it’ll be good for us, and I think it’ll be a fun experience for me too. As a rookie and being a first year in the league and being able to experience Esso so young, I think it’ll be good for the future. It’s really special, I’m looking forward to it, and I think my family and my friends are looking forward to it as well. It’ll be a good experience overall.”

Zablocki and the Regina Rebels open up the 2023 Esso Cup on Sunday, Apr. 23 against the Quebec representative at 12 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre