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Torrance’s Gil says Canalta Cup win a ‘surreal feeling’

 

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Ryan Gil’s road to a hoisting a championship trophy took many twists and turns along the way, but the 20-year-old forward from Torrance couldn’t be more pleased with the results after he and his Battlefords North Stars captured the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Canalta Cup last month.

Gil was the only player from California on the North Stars roster, but that didn’t deter him from excelling during his time in Central Canada. In fact, it motivated him to play harder and prove himself to his teammates, coaches and scouts.

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“Growing up, when we’d play in a tournament back east, other players and teams would look down on you because of where you’re from, figuring you couldn’t be much of a player if you were from California,” Gil said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have some great coaches along the way, and they basically told me that I had to work twice as hard as kids from Minnesota, Michigan and places like that.”

Gil put together a solid second season north of the border in 2018-19. In 55 games with the North Stars, he tallied 19 goals and 20 assists, then added three scores and three helpers in 13 postseason contests as Battlefords downed the Melfort Mustangs in a five-game final.

The North Stars clinched the cup with a convincing 7-2 victory in the fifth game, ending the postseason with a 12-4 record.

“Having us come back and win that Game 7 in the first series after losing three straight played a big part in motivating us for the rest of the postseason,” Gil said. “Overcoming that adversity was probably the hardest thing that I, and my teammates, had to overcome.

“After that first series, we had a certain level of confidence going into the next two series. I wasn’t really worried – I don’t want to sound arrogant, but you could feel that special swagger walking into the locker room. It was outstanding to have that level of confidence. It was such a surreal feeling to win the cup. I’m not an emotional guy, but I definitely teared up a couple times. As of right now, it’s definitely one the best moments of my life.”

Gil grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles and played hockey with clubs all over Southern California throughout his development. He started with the Long Beach Ice Dogs, then jumped to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, L.A. Hockey and back to the Jr. Kings. Gil’s family started making the drive south for him to skate with the Orange County Hockey Club and then with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks – a tough pill to swallow for a lifelong Kings fan.

During his second-to-last-year of youth hockey, he moved across the country to play for a prep school, Cheshire Academy, in Connecticut before bouncing back to the Jr. Ducks for his final Midget season.

That brought him to junior hockey where in 2017-18, he played for Battlefords as well as teams in the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference, the North American Hockey League and the Western States Hockey League. Gil established himself this season as one of the North Stars’ most consistent players.

“Getting the chance to practice every day, especially with the high level of players they have in that league, makes a big difference in your development,” Gil said. “I feel like I got so much better this season, especially with new coach Brayden Klimosko, who was awesome to play for. I can’t complain about anything – I really had a great year.”

Gil plans to go back to school next fall. While he hasn’t officially made up his mind, he hopes to attend Arizona State University and play ACHA hockey for the Sun Devils.

“Winning a championship makes me very content,” Gil said. “I think it’s time to move on.”

Photo/Byron Hildebrand Photography

— Greg Ball

(May 24, 2019)