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Mullen looking forward to Canada Winter Games

Prairie Hockey Academy forward to take ice with Team Sask in men's hockey
Prairie Hockey Academy
Prairie Hockey Academy forward Kirk Mullen is hoping to come home from the Canada Winter Games with a bit of hardware.

Not that the task in front of him and his Team Sask men's hockey teammates will be easy – Saskatchewan has won only one medal in the sport since the Games' inception, that being a gold medal for the Patrick Marleau-led squad in 1995.

But just having a chance to be part of the team at such a prestigious competition is something he's looking forward to, and if they can win a medal, it would be that much of a bonus.

“It would definitely be a good experience to win it all or even get a medal, it's been 20 years since we won, so it'll be huge accomplishment,” Mullen said. “We should be good, we have some skilled forwards, a pretty good defence and some amazing 'tendies. So it'll be a great experience.”

Mullen – who was drafted by his hometown Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2018 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft – currently leads the Cougars in scoring with 17 goals and 34 points in 27 games. Those lofty numbers mean little when it comes to cracking the Team Sask line-up, though, and the qualifying process is as arduous as it is precise.

“You have to try out, then there's the top 160 and that's cut down to 29 and then they choose the team, so I had to make it each step,” Mullen explained. “I was pretty confident going in, I worked really hard over the summer and just thought my game was at a whole 'nother level than last year. So I thought I had a pretty good chance making the team.”

And when the call came?

“It was super exciting,” he said. “It'll be an awesome experience for me and for my game to have a chance to play with such high level players.”

As mentioned, Mullen credits his rapid progression under the PHA's tutelage as a key component when it came to cracking Saskatchewan's roster.

“Last year with (director of player development) Scott King joining the program, he's made a huge difference and for me especially,” Mullen said. “Just working on different skills and all the little things that helped my game and took me to the next level.”

What those skills turn into when it comes to the Games remains to be seen, but Mullen plans to take a team-first approach during the tournament from from Feb. 14 to 22 in Red Deer.

“They'll give me a role and I just have to play that role to the top of my abilities, do what I can and take it all in,” he said. “It'll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Then there's everything else involving the Canada Winter Games – from the wide selection of sports to the many cultural activities that will be on tap.
“Just watching Team Sask play in all the different sports will be awesome,” Mullen said. “Cheering them on and having them at our games and such will be a lot of fun.”

Mullen won't be the only Moose Jaw athlete at the Games. Raine Eberl and Ryann Handley will compete in pairs figure skating, while Marc-Andre Doyon will compete in speedskating with long-time coach Verna Kergan on the sidelines. Skylar Ackerman's Moose Jaw Ford Curling Centre rink will take the ice in women's curling.

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