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Terriers, Millionaires looking to bounce back with new bench bosses

Yorkton, Sask. -

The rivalry between the Yorkton Terriers and Melville Millionaires isn’t a new one, by any stretch of the imagination.

In this upcoming chapter in the saga however – it features two new bench bosses, poised to not only keeping that rivalry going but hopeful that both sides can flip the script for 2023-24 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) season.

“I hope the teams hate each other because then it's going to be great for the box office,” new Millionaires head coach Doug Johnson said. “The better both teams are, the better it’s going to be for both organizations because more fans will come to the games. No one wants to come watch two bottom feeders play each other.”

Emery Olauson, who has had less runway to work with than the aforementioned Johnson in terms of time spent with their respective clubs, the new head coach and general manager for Yorkton echoed those statements.

“We’re excited, [Johnson is] always going to have a competitive team and they were very much all you can handle in the preseason. I think everyone in the division is strong. I haven’t been a part of the Highway 10 rivalry before but when I played in the league, it was Estevan andWeyburn,” Olauson said.

“There’s the overall standings then there’s, ‘How did you do against the Millionaires?’ That I think people will gauge our success by. So, those dates are circled on the calendar.”

Those dates include the opening night of the rivalry: an October, Friday the 13th night in Yorkton as the teams get to shake off that offseason rust. They’re back in Melville the following night for the back half of a home and home. Following that pair, the teams will play each other four more times, a pair of home and home sets on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 and again to wrap the season up in March.

This preseason saw the two teams split a home and home exhibition matchup, with the home side winning both games hosted.

Both coaches have quickly created new cultures surrounding the teams during their short times with the clubs.

Johnson spent last season in Opaskwayak Cree Nation with the OCN Blizzard, returning that franchise to the playoffs after a long stint with the Nipawin Hawks from 2010 to 2022.

He said the situation he inherited from former head coach and general manager Mike Rooney has been going well and he’s used to coming into a franchise looking for a boost.

“So far the players have been tremendous,” Johnson said.

“I’ve had some experience. When I went to Nipawin, it was a total dumpster fire. It was a disaster there and we were able to turn it around, in short order, OCN they’ve had struggles, not making playoffs in five years, we were able to turn it around, make playoffs there. I’ve had some history of coming into teams that have been down on their luck a little bit.”

Johnson said he is following his own map in constructing the team, keeping around a core that he believes were needing a new voice in the room.

“We’re not looking in the past, we’re looking forward,” he said.

The Millionaires haven’t made the playoffs since the 2017-18 season and haven’t made it out of the first round of playoffs since 2014-15 under Jamie Fiesel — that was three head coaches ago.

For the Terriers, there is urgency to bounce back after a year in which the team struggled to close out games and showed a lack of discipline.

Those areas are being keyed on by Olauson, who last coached in the league as an assistant in 2013-14 under Flin Flon’s Mike Reagan.

“There’s some work to be done,” he said. “The preseason was a lot of what the preseason is. We learned what our squeaky wheels are and where we need to go to work and fix things. We also learned what [some of our] strengths are,” he said.

The Terriers didn’t make the playoffs in 2022-23 but have made the second round every year prior, last missing the postseason in 2017-18.

It’s been 10 years since the club’s last league championship win, after going back to back in 2013 and 2014, capped with an RBC Cup in the latter year.

Regardless of how the teams shakeup in the division and within the league for that matter, Olauson and Johnson’s clubs should add quite the spark to a rivalry, which is always entertainment for the fans — no matter how far down Highway 10 you travel.

“Get your tickets … the boys are putting in a lot of work,” Olauson said.

The two teams will begin their seasons on Friday with home and homes against Weyburn and Estevan, Weyburn heading Yorkton’s way and Estevan entertaining the Melville. Top Stories

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