By Craig Stein
FORMER MUSTANG CAPTAIN & TWO TIME CHAMPION HELPS CANADA TO BRONZE
Tristan Frei, Dawson MacAuley and Tyler King, all members of the University of Regina Cougars, and all with SJHL games under their belts in junior, were named to Canada’s Winter Universiade team that captured a bronze medal in Krasnoyarsk, Russia earlier this month. Frei played the most SJHL games of the three, suiting up for 164 games with the Melfort Mustangs between 2013-2016, where he won a pair of Canalta Cup titles in 2015 and 2016, and was the captain during his 20-year-old season. Frei recapped the Russian experience.
Can you first of all just explain how team Canada was put together and how you were named to the squad?
In the middle of January, my coach, Todd Johnson, mentioned to me that my name was put forth by the team and Canada West league to be in contention of being picked to the Team Canada Universiade hockey team. The first week of February Todd called me and notified me that I was selected to represent Canada and was going to Krasnoyarsk, Russia. It was probably the most surreal news that I have heard. I grew up idolizing the maple leaf jersey, as well as watching the World Junior Championships and Olympics my whole life and to finally have the opportunity to put on the jersey was something words cannot describe.
Krasnoyarsk, I google mapped, is 4000km east of Moscow, middle of nowhere almost!… what was the location like and how was that experience.
Krasnoyarsk is in the heart of Siberia. The city has been preparing for Universiade for quite a few years now so there were many new facilities to accommodate the games and athletes. The 2019 Winter Universiade was the absolute best experience of my life. Everything was so organized from the time that we flew out of Toronto on February 25th. When we arrived to the airports on our way to the games there were specific lines for Universiade athletes, which meant little to no waiting times to check our bags or get boarding passes. The athlete’s village was probably my favourite experience next to winning a bronze medal! The village had a dining hall, barber, fitness centre, postal office, grocery store, study halls and lounges in each of the dorm buildings. Hanging out with people from all over the World was pretty neat as well. There were athletes that competed at last years 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, so it was cool to get to know them and watch them compete in their events. Although there was a language barrier, we often used Google Translate on our phones to communicate. Besides competing, our team went and watched as many Team Canada athletes and events as we could. Our team also got to attend an elementary school on one of our days off, where the students and staff performed an assembly for us and displayed Russian clothing, traditions and culture.
On the ice, you guys picked up the Bronze. How did you feel a group of guys from across the country came together in a short tournament?
Being able to medal at such a prestigious event like the Universiade was incredible. The team was made up from players across Canada and various USports leagues. For myself it was fun to play on the same team as guys that I was playing against earlier in the Canada West season. It is not always easy getting 22 players who are unfamiliar playing with each other to bond together so quickly to compete at a high level, however it goes to show you that playing the “Canadian Way” will always be rewarding. Although many of us were strangers to one another at the beginning there was a common goal of being selfless and doing whatever it takes to be successful, which I believe played a major role in our success. Living together for over two weeks also was unique and I think it brought us closer together each game we played. Being bronze medalist will be something that we will hold as group for the rest of our lives.
If you could, just talk about how your time in the SJHL helped propel you to your USPORTS career and how you enjoyed your time in Melfort. Two championships and served as captain – how key were those 3 years in your development?
The SJHL played a vital role in my development as a player. Playing for the Melfort Mustangs, and for head coach, Trevor Blevins, it helped me find my identity as a player. For almost all of my SJHL career I had the privilege to play with the same line mates, Travis Mayan and Justin Boyer who helped me find great confidence in my game. The SJHL is a very tough and demanding league, and being able to win the league twice in my 19, and 20-year-old season, it provided me with an understanding on all the little details it takes to win and how to be a great competitor every year. Being able to be the team captain in my 20-year-old season also provided me the opportunity to establish strong leadership skills and attributes, which I now often relate to, as I am currently captaining the University of Regina Cougars. Those three years playing in the SJHL shaped me as a player. I found out that every year I needed to critique my game in order to improve next season. Every offseason I knew I had to get bigger, faster and stronger in order to give myself a chance at playing at the next level.
My time playing in Melfort not only influence my hockey development, but also shaped me into the person I am today. My amazing billets Claude and Jean Bourgeois did everything in their power to ensure that I was performing at my best every night, and for that I am forever thankful. The city itself showed constant support throughout my 3 years of playing, and I will never forget the playoff runs with sold-out crowds every game. I can even remember looking up into the stands at away games and seeing the Melfort fans arriving on the fan bus, traveling hours to come watch us play. The people in the community were friendly and treated every player like they were lifelong residents.