Moose Jaw hockey product Kirk Mullen and the Steinbach Pistons are looking to cap off what’s been a memorable season.
They have one more obstacle left – that being the 2023 National Junior A Centennial Cup in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, which kicks off on Thursday.
“I’m very excited, honoured, and privileged,” says Mullen. “It’s been a long playoffs but I'm looking forward to the Centennial [Cup], we’ve put a lot of hard work into it. We’re ready for a good performance here at the Centennial [Cup].”
For Mullen, it wasn’t your average season, as he was traded to the Pistons from the Weyburn Redwings in October and then separated his shoulder after joining the team.
“When I came back it was slow getting into it but once I got into the last two months I took off at the end of the season. That carried into playoffs and credit to my linemates and teammates for helping me achieve the successes that I did and ultimately the MJHL championship and then a shot at the Centennial Cup.”
In 33 games with the Manitoba club, he notched 15 goals and added 14 assists for 29 points.
The Pistons finished the season with a 42-15-0-1 record and went into the playoffs with the #2 overall seed.
A long playoffs it was for Mullen and the Pistons who play within the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL).
They were battle-tested in their first series, as the Winkler Flyer pushed them to a seven-game series, with Steinbach winning in Game 7, 4-2.
In their semi-final series, Steinbach was able to put it away in six games against the Swan Valley Stampeders to advance to the MJHL final.
Then in the finals, they were able to prevail in five games against the Virden Oil Capitals to book their ticket to the Centennial Cup.
In 18 playoff games, Mullen was able to put up six goals and 20 points.
“I think the playoffs are like a whole other season. For me individually it was a reset after the regular season and an opportunity to reset my mind and body. I took that into playoffs, and I did everything I could. Once again credit to my linemates and teammates for the successes that we had on the ice,” adds Mullen.
Being from Moose Jaw, he hopes to represent the city and minor hockey association that helped him get to this stage.
“Through the years I have been coached by so many coaches and I’ve had a chance to develop and grow my game as a player and a person off the ice. I’m grateful to get an opportunity to represent Moose Jaw here at the Centennial Cup.”
Mullen isn’t the only Moose Jaw kid competing in the tournament. He will be joined by Caelan Fitzpatrick from the Brooks Bandits and Brydon Bell who plays on the Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
The three grew up playing minor hockey together in Moose Jaw, with Mullen and Fitzpatrick being teammates in 2019-2020 with the Moose Jaw U18 AAA Warriors.
“I played in Weyburn last year and he played in Estevan, we had a lot of rivalry there. Hopefully, we get to play here at the Centennial Cup. He's one of my best friends."
"For all three of us, it’s pretty neat that we get to play here at the Centennial Cup and represent Moose Jaw.”
Steinbach opens up their national tournament on Thursday against the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Collingwood Blues at 7:30 p.m. CDT.
You keep track of Mullen’s tournament HERE.