Yorkton, Sask. –
The Yorkton Terriers are onto the semifinals in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) Playoffs after taking out the third-ranked Melfort Mustangs in seven games.
Head coach and general manager Mat Hehr said it all came down to defense in the end.
“We jumped out to a three games to one lead and they battled back and we took it to a game seven, and we got a huge win on the road,” Hehr said.
In the seven game win, there was one Terrier in particular who was instrumental in the upset.
Yorkton’s own Kael DePape, who has played all but one season of his hockey career in his hometown, stole the show. The rookie goaltender stopped 241 shots in the series, including a 45 save, double overtime win in game two.
“Growing up, you always wanted to be playing for the Terriers, being the starring goalie for the Terriers, it’s just an amazing feeling,” DePape said.
The 19-year-old goalie remembers when he was in the Gallagher Center, watching playoff hockey, cheering for the team.
Thanks to COVID-19 and his team missing out on the postseason in years past, round one was actually DePape’s first playoff action since his second year of Bantam, five seasons ago, with the AA U18 Yorkton club.
“Going in, you almost forget what playoff hockey is all about. It’s a completely different game and you just got to jump right into it,” he said.
DePape admitted he never thought he’d be in this position, being the starting goaltender, playing Junior A hockey in his hometown.
Many believe he’s the frontrunner for both the goalie and rookie of the year this season.
“It would be crazy, honestly. I never thought coming into the year that I’d be getting nominated for any of those awards, just getting that recognition is unbelievable,” DePape said.
Hehr said DePape’s play was a big reason the team got past the Melfort Mustangs in round one.
“I think in playoffs, goaltending wins… game seven, you only allow one goal, some extremely timely saves for us. It was awesome to see,” he said.
The Terriers will have to lean on their super rookie if they hope to get past the Estevan Bruins, the top ranked team in the SJHL.
Back in 2019, the Terriers, as the eighth seed, were able to knock off the number one Nipawin Hawks.
Game one of the second round series will be in Estevan Friday and Saturday before the two teams shift to Yorkton for games three and four on Tuesday and Thursday.