Cree player looks for a playoff win before continuing hockey career in Buffalo
Trey Funk’s final season of junior hockey eligibility has already been a rewarding one.
But the 20-year-old member of Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation in Saskatchewan is hoping to achieve even more success with his team.
Funk, who plays centre, is the captain of the Bonnyville Pontiacs, members of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
Earlier this month it was announced that Funk is this year’s recipient of the Don McNabb Memorial Trophy, annually awarded to the AJHL’s most dedicated player.
“It was a huge accomplishment and a huge honour,” Funk said.
And about a week before capturing the league award, it was made public that Funk had accepted an athletic scholarship offer from Buffalo’s Canisius College Golden Griffins.
He will join the Golden Griffins starting with the 2023-24 season. The team competes in the Atlantic Hockey Association, an NCAA Division 1 circuit.
“They were the only (NCAA) team talking to me,” Funk said of the Golden Griffins. “I jumped on that as soon as I could.”
Funk plans to study sports management at the Buffalo school.
For now, however, Funk is focused on helping the Pontiacs with what he is hoping will be a lengthy playoff run.
Bonnyville is currently in the midst of an AJHL best-of-seven quarterfinal series with the Lloydminster Bobcats.
The Bobcats registered a convincing 6-2 victory in the series opener on March 10. But Bonnyville evened the series by blanking Lloydminster 4-0 on March 11.
The Pontiacs then grabbed a 2-1 series lead with a 7-4 triumph on March 14. Game 4 in the series is tonight, March 15, in Lloydminster.
Bonnyville posted a 36-21-2-1 regular season mark, good for third place in the league’s eight-squad North Division.
Funk is confident the Pontiacs are capable of going on a long playoff run, and possibly even capture the AJHL championship.
“We have a lot of talent,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. And a good leadership core.”
Regardless of how far the Bonnyville squad advances this season, Funk already knows he will continue to play with a couple of his teammates next season.
That’s because forward Matteo Giampa and defenceman Jack Budd have also accepted offers from Canisius College.
Funk is one of two Indigenous players on the Pontiacs’ roster. Chayce Schmidt, a forward, is Métis.
Funk, who is in his third season with the Pontiacs, collected 46 points (22 goals and 24 assists) in 52 regular season matches.
He surpassed the 36-point season he had a year ago.
“I obviously wanted to beat my total from last year,” Funk said. “But my goal was to actually get 70 points this year.”
Funk, however, separated his right shoulder in December and was forced to miss eight games while he recuperated.
Though it’s still early in the post-season, Funk is averaging two points per outing. He has six points, including a pair of goals, in the Pontiacs’ first three playoff contests.
Pontiacs associate general manager Neil Langridge said the organization has been fortunate to have Funk around for three seasons.
“He’s a very high-character individual on and off the ice,” Langridge said. “He’s been a pleasure to be around.”
Langridge said the Golden Griffins have landed themselves a solid recruit in Funk.
“They’re very excited to have him,” he said of the Buffalo club. “He skates so well and that’s what they want to see at the NCAA level.”
Pontiacs’ head coach and general manager Rick Swan also has plenty of praise for his captain.
“Trey Funk is one of those rare players that came to our organization looking for an opportunity and nothing else,” Swan said. “He wants nothing more than to earn his way every day and is an individual that takes full advantage of every resource that we provide our players to get better each and every single day.”
Swan added that Funk is a very coachable player.
“Trey works his tail off at everything and soaks up direction and coaching, which is why it’s easy to see that he does things right both on and off the ice all the time,” he said.
Swan is also confident that Funk will have success at the collegiate level.
“Canisius is getting a leader that will continue to develop and be a culture enhancer for their dressing room and program,” he said.
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com