Yorkton native, and former Junior Terrier hockey player has added a college championship to his hockey resume.
Joel Danyluk was among 11 former Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League players to win the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Championship recently with the Augustana Vikings.
For Danyluk the championship is not his first in hockey, having an SJHL ring with LaRonge in 2010, having ended up with the Icewolves after his time with the Terriers.
“This championship is completely different than the one with LaRonge,” he told Yorkton This Week. “The LaRonge one will always be number one just because of the storybook like feel to it (defeating the local Terriers) but this one I am more proud of.
“The initial goal was to win a championship from day one of camp and to fulfill it from start to finish with one team was amazing. It is so good for the Augustana Vikings … they have waited for 37 years for this title. This completely united the school and the city of Camrose.
The Vikings are very proud.”
The win with the Vikings was one Danyluk was almost not part of, having decided to head to Augustana after most players had committed.
“It was a last minute choice in coming to Augustana,” he said. “Coach (Blaine) Gusdal (a former Terrier coach) had been trying to recruit me starting in June. I was planning on retiring from hockey after Estevan.
I went on the Contiki tour for the entire month of July and when I returned from it I had changed my mind.
“I was initially all enrolled at the U of R for education but in the last moments before September I decided to change my mind and head to Camrose. It caught coach Gusdal off guard because I had turned his offers down numerous amounts of times.
“I felt that my mind switched because of family friends such as Mike Stackhouse, Vince Andrusiak, and Bob Beatty who talked highly about coach Gusdal. I am taking academically majoring in Business Economics and Management with a minor in English.”
And the Vikings play good hockey.
“The program is sound on paper and that is what I liked,” said Danyluk.
“There is a ton of SJHL flavour, 11 of us. I am the youngest on the team and it is very different compared to the SJHL however.
“I feel that it is better hockey because you have guys like Daniel Hope and Torrie Dyck who are 24-years old shooting on you.
“A guy, for example Matt Stephanishyn from SAIT who is close to 28
years old and played professional hockey in the AHL, is a powerhouse in the league.
“Another very good player is Steel Boomer who has won a WHL (Western Hockey League) Championship with the Kooteney Ice.
“The play is a lot smarter and the speed is equivalent. I feel like we
would give a lot of CIS teams a real run for their money. Mount Royal for example is moving up to CIS next year and they finished with the bronze medal.”
Danyluk had a sparkling rookie season with the Vikings. In the regular season he went 11-2-1, had a 1.77 goals against average, a .937 save
percentage, and four shutouts.
“I feel like I can attribute my numbers to my teammates as well as a
shorter season,” he said. There are only 28 regular season games and this fits my style better.
“In junior A hockey I had trouble focusing on six-games in an eight-night stretch and would get tired.
“With college hockey the games are on the weekends and with three goalies I would get one game a week which was much better for me.”
That all said Danyluk said he felt he worked hard to take advantage of the starts he had.
“I feel like my preparation for games was always the best out of any goalie but my stamina and endurance is not the best,” he said. “I did not expect to play as much as I did considering the other team goalies on the team were fourth-year players and I was a rookie. Their attitude was great because I was on a roll for the entire season.
“I ended up finishing number one in goals against average and save percentage for the regular season. I was honoured when I received First Team All Conference All Star Status for the entire league and this was voted on opposition coaches.
“I also won during the year Player of the Week for the entire ACAC athletics which is a province wide award extended to all sports including volleyball, basketball, and badminton and both male and female.”
The good regular season was a precursor to the playoffs, a time Danyluk said he thought he’d get time between the pipes.
“I expected to play in the playoffs just because of my regular season and I was a proven playoff goalie,” he said.
In terms of the playoffs Danyluk performed well. He was in goal for the final game, and went 6-2, 2.20, .930 per cent in the post season.
“I feel like Game 3 was better than the final in NAIT,” he said.
“University hockey is known for not getting very many attendance, but 1, 600 people filled the Encana Arena and for Augustana being a campus of only 800 students I bet 99 per cent of the student population was there.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric and better than any Melville/Yorkton, LaRonge/Flin Flon, Estevan/Weyburn game I ever played in. It was a sea of red and plus the alcoholic beverages students like to drink it was the loudest I have ever heard an arena. It still gives me chills.
“Game 4 was a blur.
“We had more Augustana supporters there than NAIT did in their home arena. The game went into double overtime and we came out on top wit the goal scorer being Dean Prpick a former Nipawin Hawk.
“Augustana’s last championship was in 1975 and the school has been absolutely insane this week.
“The dean and I spoke for over an hour during lunch because he was so proud.”
Danyluk said he’s already looking forward to another year in Camros for both the hockey and the school.
“I will 100 per cent be attending Augustana next year I love it,” he said. “I got voted into student council with a 71 per cent vote for next year as well as I got a job being a Resident Assistant at the school which is being in charge of the dorms.
“It is also the plan for next year to start a goalie school every Sunday morning with me instructing as well as I have a part-time job at Home Hardware in Camrose.
“Mix in a full course load and the possibility of returning in hockey and I am a pretty busy individual. I really like making a difference and I feel like I have made a difference already at Augustana and I hope to continue and set bigger goals here.”