Whitehorse Daily Star

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WALL POWER — Goalie Alix (“The Wall”) Walchuk in action during the War for the Roses tournament in Edmonton in August.

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WINNING WALL — Alix Walchuk poses with the War for the Roses trophy after beating the Manitoba/Sask. team 3-2.

Young Yukon female goalie ‘The Wall’ moving south to pursue hockey dream

Fourteen-year-old Alix Walchuk, aka “the Wall”, is an accomplished pianist, and has won multiple horse shows in western dressage.

By Morris Prokop on September 10, 2021

Fourteen-year-old Alix Walchuk, aka “the Wall”, is an accomplished pianist, and has won multiple horse shows in western dressage.

She is also a multi-MVP winning goalie who recently won the War for the Roses tournament at West Edmonton Mall with the B.C. Lady Canucks team.

First of all, how did the nickname “the Wall” come about?

“I think it has something to do with my last name being Walchuk,” relates the young phenom. “Everyone called my older brother ‘Wally’, so they started calling me ‘Wally’ and they kind of got confused, so they started calling me ‘The Wall’ and that kinda just stuck.”

Walchuk, who has been playing goal for six years, has had a quick ascent in her young career.

“There’s not very much training up in Whitehorse, for goalies, and there’s not really girls’ hockey for my age up there, cause most of the girls have already graduated, and the others are too young. I started goalie, I played in the final game … first-year Atom or something and I loved it.

So we started going to goalie camps the year after – that would have been second year. I went to, like, Okanagan and then I went to this one called Eli Wilson (Goaltending). Every summer I would go to one or two camps , and I got to play on this team called the Predators, which kind of was my start-off team. So I played with the Fort St. John Predators, and then I went and played for Toronto Pro, and finally I got picked for Team B.C. Lady Canucks.”

The Lady Canucks were an all-2007 birth-year team. The teams in the tournament were birth-years 2007 and 2008.

Walchuk had a great time at the event.

“It was so fun! Like, all the girls were so nice and … we all spent a lot of time together and like everyone was from different places so we were all pretty new, and – the West Edmonton Mall was really hot, so we all sweat a lot before we even got on the ice, so that was pretty fun. The coach was cool and they were all just super nice.”

According to Walchuk, there were at least 300 fans at every game. She didn’t know any of the girls she played with before the tournament. One of them was from Saskatchewan, but most of the girls on the team were from B.C.

“There were three shootouts. These two teams, Toronto and Saskatchewan … they kept on beating us. We got beat by Toronto twice, and finally in the semis with Toronto we beat them 3-2, and we went on to beat Saskatchewan ... they hadn’t been beat. They were number one and we beat them for gold, 3-2.

“It was amazing just to be there with my team and sharing and everything. It was great.”

And her biggest accomplishment so far?

“I would say Canada Games, still number one. To be the youngest in Canada Games. I was 11. I was pretty young.”

Walchuk played on Team Yukon at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer, Alberta.

“I only got to play part of one game, because we had an older goalie. But it was still a really cool experience with the girls and everything.”

Walchuk did point out that winning the War for the Roses tournament was a close second, though.

As for her biggest supporters, “I would say my parents,” says Walchuk. “My dad’s really supported me with hockey, but my mom, even though she doesn’t like me being a goalie, she supported and put me in all these tournaments and everything, and dad’s put me in the camps and stuff.”

When asked if her mom is kind of nervous when Walchuk is in goal, she replied, “oh, yes! Just paces back and forth. It’s hard for her to watch.”

“When I was younger, I refused to wear a real chest protector, so I used to use a ball hockey one, then I started playing with the boys and that didn’t work very well, but I wouldn’t change it, so I used to get these massive bruises all over me, and I kind of just thought of them as battle scars, until I made it up to U18 boys, where I kind of needed the protection, also I was gonna break some limbs.

“It doesn’t bug me. Like the puck doesn’t scare me when it comes at my mask or anything cause with all the gear I know it can’t hurt me.”

Another influence was her Fort St. John Predators coach.

“Dave Hamilton. He was my Predators coach, my first ever big-team coach. He took a chance on me and that’s kind of where it started.”

Others include Trevor Twardochleb, her coach in a gold medal win at an Angels on Ice tournament a few years ago.

The Yukon North Stars were awarded the Sport Yukon team of the year last year.

And local hockey coaching legend Ken Anderson, who Walchuk won a gold medal under with the bantam Mustangs at the Yukon U18 championships.

As for her future goals, “I want to get a scholarship. NCAA. And I want to play for Team Canada. And then go from there.”

Speaking of Team Canada, Walchuk has a unique ‘goalie’ perspective on the recent Team Canada gold medal game victory over the U.S.

“It was definitely suspenseful just to see that puck just kind of – nobody thought they had won until they realized it was in the net.

“I felt kind of bad for the other goalie, because as a goalie, that would really, really not feel too great after that.”

“I’ve always wanted to play with the women’s team … it’s like watching girls who are just like me – grew up and actually do it. They actually made it.”

Walchuk say’s she’s going to miss her friends. She’s moving to Kelowna to join the RINK Hockey Academy.

“It’s kind of hard for me to leave them here, and hockey and everything, because they’ve just been a big part of my life, pushed me in hockey and everything. Now I’m leaving them for school.”

How does she feel about the move down south?

“Excited. I’m going to be independent because my parents aren’t coming with me.”

Walchuk will be staying in a billet situation.

She’ll be playing with U18 (under 18) girls prep and going into grade 9.

“I’m just the third goalie so … I won’t play a lot of games, but the coach said I’ll play a few.

“It’s a big opportunity. I’ve be able to get actual goalie training and everything.”

Walchuk will be spending half of her school day on the ice. As for her studies, she’ll have weekends off, unless there is a tournament, and of course study in her spare time.

“I’m seeing how I like it for the first 10 months, and then I’ll go from there.”

Ian Perrier is a native of Whitehorse and a former pro goaltender in Sweden. He met Walchuk at a very young age.

“I met back I think it was Christmas, back in 2009. We were all playing outdoor hockey and she developed her love for goaltending by laying on her back and using her feet to stop the puck, at the age of like, four.” he relates.

Perrier saw her a fair amount of times over the years.

“I was running the goalie clinics in Whitehorse, I think that would have been 2017-2018 season. I was back here doing the clinics, and she was always reliable. She’s been on I don’t know how many teams. She’s always been probably one of the more engaged students. I really enjoyed working with her all the time.”

When asked if Perrier took Walchuck under his wing, he replied, “I think to a certain extent. But I’ll give credit where credit is due. She did a lot of the work herself. With COVID and everything, it was pretty hard to get involved with minor hockey. Just ‘cause it was structured differently. But what Alix was really good at was paying attention and using whatever I taught her and putting it into practice on her own time. So I think that’s what really makes her special.”

Perrier saw lots of potential in Walchuk.

“Oh yeah, tons. Mainly because she was super-coachable. She was just all-ears, all the time. And she would ask a lot of questions, too.”

As for her strengths and weaknesses, Perrier says “she’s a pretty tall kid for her age, and definitely has a fine attention to detail when she’s out there. (Walchuk currently stands 5’9’’ tall).

“As far as weaknesses go, she’s seen a lot of success throughout her career, and she’s still pretty hungry for more. So I don’t think I can actually pinpoint any specific weaknesses. She hasn’t let her success go to her head, so that’s hugely important for her advancement.

“There’s always areas for improvement, regardless of who you are. I mean, you look at how often the best of the best are constantly working on their craft. I think for her, the biggest thing is just gonna be maintaining her drive to keep getting better. It’s not an easy job being on the ice in practice as a goalie, you don’t really get much of a break, so her biggest challenge is going to be carrying a lot of the workload I think.”

So how far can she go?

“I think that it’s entirely up to her. The female hockey world has a lot more opportunities nowadays. There’s a professional women’s league in the states … Shannon Szabados, who’s a former Olympic gold medal winner, she played in that league for a few years.

“I think her focus right now should be landing a scholarship and getting an education under her belt before thinking about the pro route.”

Perrier thinks the RINK Academy in Kelowna is a good next step for Walchuk.

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