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Former Red Deer Rebel Jace Isley signs with the U of S Huskies

He played four seasons in Red Deer
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Saskatoon Blades goaltender Ethan Chadwick stops Rebels forward Jace Isley on a breakaway attempt in the 2023 WHL Eastern Conference semi-finals. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Former Red Deer Rebels forward Jace Isley has found a new home.

The 21-year-old from Grande Prairie signed with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey program after wrapping up his final season in the Western Hockey League.

Isley said what swayed him to join the Huskies was more than just hockey but also their academics.

“I just thought it was a good fit academically here for me they had a good program I was interested in,” he said.

“They have a really great facility, coaching staff, and I was very impressed by the way that they play. Their style of play is my kind of way.”

Huskies head coach Brandin Cote, who coached the Red Deer College Kings and the Red Deer U18 Chiefs from 2013-2016, had a hand in recruiting Isley to the program.

Isley explained he was playing in an Indigenous hockey tournament in June in Saskatoon where he met Cote. The Huskies coach took him out for dinner and it wasn’t long until Cote convinced him to join the program.

“He gave me a tour and I was really impressed,” Isley said. “I thought this was the place I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Huskie.”

“He knows how Red Deer plays and he knows the way that I play. We were on good terms as soon as I started talking to him so it was a good fit for me to come here.”

It also helps that the U of S isn’t too far from his hometown and he’ll join some familiar faces.

Liam Keeler, who played with Isley on the Rebels during the 2021-22 season, is heading into his second year at the U of S.

“He was a really big influence on me joining the Huskies this year. We played on a line for a couple of months when I was 19,” Isley added.

At the end of the Rebels season Isley explained his desire to play professional hockey but at that point had no offers on the table.

Prior to signing with the Huskies, he was offered a two-way deal to join the San Jose Sharks ECHL team with a chance to eventually play for their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.

However, if he were to play a season in the ECHL Isley would lose his WHL scholarship to get a free education while playing USports hockey.

With that in mind, Isley determined that getting an education was more important.

“I turned that down because I thought going to school was the best decision for me right now. I didn’t really want to waste my schooling because it’s a good opportunity especially when it’s paid for,” he said.

Isley still hopes to play professional hockey and was invited to attend the New Jersey Devils rookie camp this September in hopes of signing a one-way deal in the AHL.

“If I got the opportunity to play in the AHL I would definitely take that,” he said. “The head scout reached out to [former Rebels head coach] Steve Konowalchuk and it just snowballed from there.”

Isley played four seasons with the Rebels accumulating 52 goals and 51 assists for 103 points in 205 games.

In his last season with the Red Deer Rebels Isley notched a career-high 56 points scoring 30 goals and added 26 assists in 67 games.

He hopes to continue to build off that heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

“It was a huge season for me and I took some big steps. I’m wanting to continue to take big steps in my rookie season with the Huskies,” he said.

“It’s going to be really weird not going back to Red Deer… I’m excited to get back to it in the season with the Huskies but I’m also going to miss being a Western Hockey League player.”



Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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