Teammates hail ‘unsung hero’ Hyland ahead of Trojans’ Challenge Cup tourney
Ken Babey considers Ryan Hyland to be “kind of an unsung hero” in Trojan red and white.
Mind you, there’s plenty of praise being sung these days over the third-year SAIT men’s hockey forward.
“He’s so important. Guys like Ryan are the reason we’ve been so successful,” says three-year linemate Mike Ullrich. “He just works so hard at the rink and at school, and he does everything to make his linemates successful.”
Adds fellow linemate Shane Lust: “He does the dirty work for our line . . . he battles harder in front of the net harder than a lot of guys, and I think that’s where he’s rewarded.”
While Ullrich (defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference player of the year) and Lust (tied for the Trojans’ career goal-scoring lead) have grabbed their share of attention over the past couple of years, Hyland (4th year, Okotoks, Alta., petroleum engineering, AJHL Canmore) has more or less toiled in obscurity.
And even if he is having a breakout year on the Trojans’ top line — he’s fifth on the ACAC’s goal-scoring leaderboard with 10, while his 21 points are seventh on the provincial circuit — Hyland notes his numbers don’t define his value to the club.
The Trojans, gunning for an unprecedented fifth ACAC men’s hockey title, host the fourth annual Challenge Cup against Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) competition from Sunday, Jan. 2 to Tuesday, Jan. 4, with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, University of Calgary Dinos, University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, and University of Regina Cougars all making the trek to SAIT Arena.
“This is probably my last year of competitive hockey, so I’ll do whatever I have to do for us to win. We play for each other in the locker-room now. It’s not about the stats,” says Hyland, whose 10 goals are second-most on the SAIT roster, next to Lust’s 11.
“I find that if I’m not scoring goals, I can still find ways to be effective,” adds the six-foot-two Hyland. “I kind of go back to my roots . . . working hard and hitting, blocking shots and doing whatever I can to get momentum. Sometimes the puck won’t go in the net for you, and you’ve got to find other ways to help the team.”
The Trojans, currently perched atop ACAC standings with a 12-2-2 record, have drawn two big assignments on the Challenge Cup schedule — the 13-time CIS champion Golden Bears (11-2-1), on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m., and the Dinos (7-5-2), on Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. The Dinos are defending tournament champions after topping the Trojans 5-2 in the de facto final last year.
Hyland, who spent a season in the CIS with the greater Toronto-based York Lions, is a valuable piece of the Trojans’ puzzle — and not just for his offensive exploits.
“Ryan’s having an outstanding season, and he continues to be a key player for our team,” says Babey, the Trojans’ 24th-year head coach. “Ryan’s shown leadership. He’s contributed some key goals. He works hard. He’s a great two-way player. And I think he’s the best penalty killer in the league, getting in the lanes and blocking shots.
“He just does so much for us. Ryan’s always been a good player for us, but this year, he’s making consistent contributions every night. I can’t think of a game where he wasn’t pretty good, and didn’t contribute in some way,” adds Babey.
“He reminds me of a Bob Gainey — a good, solid hockey player at both ends of the ice. From a coach’s perspective, he’s the kind of guy you want on the ice with a minute to go.”