The second featured inductee into the Yorkton Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is unlike the other five Class of 2014 inductees.
While the other five inductees, Bryce Jacobs, Mike Matich, Larry Popein, Don Chesney and Blaine Knoll are all inducted solely due to their hard work and determination, this particular inductee will be forever remembered in the YSHOF because of its close knit, family style teamwork.
The 2002-2003 Yorkton Harvest.
When it comes to hockey in Yorkton, the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers are almost always the team that the people flock to watch, In part because they’re the highest level of hockey in the city and partly because they’re almost always competitive within their league.
But at the end of the 2002-2003 hockey season it wasn’t the Terriers that were the darlings of the city.
Instead, it was the Yorkton Harvest.
But the way the 2002-2003 season began, you’d never have guessed that, when all was said and done, the Harvest would be the team embraced by the city.
That’s because the 2002-03 Harvest started off their season in terrible fashion.
One year after making it to the final of the prestigious Mac’s Tournament in Calgary, the Harvest struggled out of the gate, limping into the Christmas break in seventh place and not even qualifying for the Mac’s Tournament that year. “When we looked at it at the start of 2002-03 we thought ‘well okay, we’ll go the Mac’s tournament again’ after we lost in the final the year before, but we actually had a really poor first half of the season and didn’t even qualify to get in to the Mac’s,” mentioned the head coach of the 2002-2003 Harvest, Ryan Hoffman. “So we ended up having 21 days off, because the way we built our schedule was to allow for a week break after the Mac’s tournament.”
That prolonged break, in conjunction with the Christmas holiday, allowed the Harvest players to sit back, regroup and prepare for the rest of the season; something they did extremely well because when they came back after the break it was as if they were a completely different team. “When we came back after Christmas it just seemed like we really sort of found our groove,” offered Hoffman, continuing, “We went on a pretty good tear there after Christmas and finished fourth place in the regular season.”
But regular season success means nothing in the playoffs, as the Harvest learnt just a year before when they were bounced out of the playoffs, unceremoniously, by the upstart Saskatoon Blazers.
However the Harvest, this time, were prepared for the Blazers, exacting a measure of revenge on the fifth place Saskatoon team in the first round, eliminating the Blazers and setting themselves up with a series against their most hated SMAAAHL rivals, the Tisdale Trojans.
Tisdale just happened to be the defending Air Canada Cup (now Telus Cup) champions and the team that finished first overall in the SMAAAHL regular season. At the time Tisdale heavily recruited their players from the Melville area, making them natural rivals for the Yorkton club and providing extra fuel for the fire in one of the best SMAAAHL playoff series to date.
Leading the semi-final series 2-games-to-1, Yorkton trailed by two goals late in Game Four in Kamsack, where the Harvest had to play due to a scheduling conflict, and were on the verge of having to go to Tisdale for a fifth and final Game Five.
But then, magic happened. “We actually scored two goals with the goalie pulled to tie the game up,” reminisced Hoffman, who was the man that made the decision to pull the goalie late in the third period when trailing by two. “Then we eventually won it in double overtime to go to the final.”
With the daunting task of taking on the Trojans behind them the Harvest let out a sigh of relief, all the while blowing away the Saskatoon Contacts en route to the SMAAAHL Championship. “They (Tisdale) are a very successful program so to knock them out in four games felt really good,” suggested the former Harvest head coach. “At that point, after getting over that Tisdale hurdle, which was the biggest hurdle for us, we kind of cruised through the final against the Saskatoon Contacts.”
The league win meant the Harvest were set to represent Saskatchewan at the 2003 Western Region Championship in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where they crushed the competition from Western Ontario and Manitoba to earn a trip to the 2003 Air Canada Cup (the following year it was changed to the Telus Cup).
The Harvest opened up the 2003 Air Canada Cup with a convincing 4-1 win over the Atlantic representatives the St. John’s Maple Leafs, before getting blasted by Quebec’s Collège Antoine-Girouard 7-3.
The Harvest then defeated the Central representatives Waterloo Wolves 2-1, fell to the Calgary Northstars (Pacific) 1-0 and beat the host Sault Ste. Marie North Stars 5-3 to finish the round-robin with a 3-2 record and a semi-final berth against Calgary where they would lose 2-1 to the eventual champions, followed by an overtime loss to St. John’s in the bronze medal game. “Once we lost in the semi-final we played the bronze medal game and lost in overtime which was disappointing but losing that game, that semi-final game to the North Stars, was a huge disappointment,” mentioned Hoffman, continuing, “Unfortunately I don’t think we had our hearts in that bronze medal game once gold slipped away and lost in overtime when Teddy Purcell, who is in the NHL right now, got the game winner against us.”
However that was not the last time some of the members of the 2002-2003 Harvest would play on the National stage. Seven of the 2002-03 Harvest, blueliners Dustin Nehring and Sheldon Dubnyk, as well as forwards Chris Korchinski, Mike Holmes, Todd Rusnak, Craig Straightnose and Scott Woytas, would go on to play for the Yorkton Terriers at the 2005-06 Royal Bank Cup, while six of those (excluding Holmes) would become back-to-back SJHL champions with the Terriers.
Members of the 2002-2003 Yorkton Harvest that will be inducted into the Yorkton Sports Hall of Fame and Museum are: Goaltenders Justin Mrazekand Nick Olynyk, defencemen Dustin Nehring, Sheldon Dubnyk, Dallas Thompson, Jesse Youzwa, Dillan Hubick, Fritz Sauter and Bradyn Melrose and forwards Chris Korchinski, Clayton Geiger, Mike Holmes, Braden Reiger, Todd Rusnak, Craig Straightnose, Scott Woytas, Neil Kodman, Bret Haake, Brady Heintz, Colin Wilson and Robin Bolding.
Also inducted will be head coach Ryan Hoffman, assistant coach Lee Rusnak, trainer Randy Henley and general manager Wayne Henley.
Congratulations to the 2002-2003 Yorkton Harvest.