Rylee Zalischuk has spent countless hours on the road over the years and she's okay with that because it's given her the chance to play the sport she loves. The soon to be 18-year-old has spent her winters in a hockey rink for as long as she can remember and nowadays, she has an opportunity to look back at what was a very successful and enjoyable competitive hockey career.
After playing in Dauphin during her young playing days (atom), Zalischuk would play in Neepawa and the surrounding areas. She also suited up for the midget Grand Plains Ice Dogs last season and the team won a bronze medal at the provincials.
"That was pretty fantastic finishing third at the provincials," said Zalischuk. "It was really good being close to home, lots of my family and friends could come to watch me play."
After that bronze medal, Zalischuk would join the Neepawa Natives U18 team for this past season, a team that actually won silver the year prior and finished one place higher than Zalischuk and the Ice Dogs. This past season was officially Zalischuk's final of her competitive playing career and she had the opportunity to play in one final provincial championship before turning the page.
The team opened their tournament with a tie against Birtle. In the end, they lost a close battle against Souris in the bronze medal game.
"I'm really glad we had the chance to play in the provincials, it happened before everything happened with the novel coronavirus," added Zalischuk. "It was such a wonderful year with such a great group of girls."
Rylee hasn't only been playing over the years. For the past two years, she's assisted Phil Fafard at tryouts for the Parkland U15 women's Rangers, a team that continues to improve every day. Zalischuk says getting that opportunity was such an honour.
"I really loved seeing those girls and how hard they worked to improve their games," said Zalischuk. "I hope I can come back and coach that team in the near future, I loved every second of it."
So there's no doubt that Rylee has done great things on the ice and off the ice as well and now she's been rewarded for all of her contributions. Zalischuk is the lone recipient in the province to be awarded the Buck Matiowski Memorial Scholarship. Matiowski was a trailblazer for several hockey firsts in Manitoba such as organizing the first-ever provincial women’s hockey tournament in 1955 and founding Western Manitoba’s first summer hockey school in Brandon in 1967.
The scholarship is accompanied by $750. Rylee was also a wizard in the classroom as she maintained an average of 96% during her time at the DRCSS.
"It's really nice to be recognized, I worked really hard with my schooling and balancing that with my extracurricular activities," she added. "It's great and it's certainly going to help me a lot moving forward with my schooling."
Rylee will now head to the Wheat City where she'll attend Brandon University as she looks to obtain her degree in Optometry (eye doctor). After three years in Brandon, she will move to Waterloo for four years. She decided she wants to get a degree in Optometry to help people.
"I think it's pretty important to try and make a difference and that's what I want to do," ended Zalischuk. "I'm looking forward to the next stage in my life and we'll see how things go."
In all, the Dauphinite was awarded 13 scholarships.