USPHL Kalkaska Rhinos Sign Bigstone Cree Nation Forward, Illias Okemow

The USPHL Kalkaska Rhinos continue to add to their forward corps, and continue to add size as well.

Today’s signing of Ilias Okemow, a 1999-born talent from the Canadian province of Alberta, also adds to the Rhinos’ growing contingent of aboriginal players on the Kalkaska roster for the 2017-18 season.

“We are very excited about Ilias joining our team,” said Rhinos coach-GM Krzysztof Oliwa. “He comes with good size (6-2, 170), a tremendous work ethic and solid skill set.”

“My aboriginal background means a lot to me, especially coming from a small reserve called the Bigstone Cree Nation in Alberta,” added Okemow. “I feel like I could become a role model for the younger aboriginal kids in my reserve that want to pursue their goals and becoming successful.”

For Okemow, the chance to play for the Rhinos came by word of mouth.

“The opportunity came from a couple of my friends that played in Kalkaska last season and they suggested me to contact Coach Oliwa and tell him more about myself,” explained Okemow. “I feel like I’d be a good fit with the team because I bring positivity into the room and when I see a teammate that is down on themselves, I like to bring them up and make themselves feel good.

“Being far away from my family and friends is going to be a tough adjustment to get used to, but with the help of the billet family and teammates, it should be a smooth transition. I chose Kalkaska because I feel this will be a great opportunity to take my career to the next step and getting exposed to a higher level of hockey.”

Okemow played with the PAC Saints U18 AA team last season in Spruce Grove and also grew up playing hockey in Spruce Grove.

“I started playing hockey when I was three years old and ever since then, I had the passion to play the best game in the world,” said Okemow. “The type of player I am is more of a playmaker. I’m more of a pass-first guy and I like to create scoring chances for my teammates. I would describe my style of play as a hardworking player and I like to use my size and battle in the corners.”

In the future, Okemow said his short-term goal is to become a better player and person, on and off the ice, and winning a USPHL championship. His long-term goal is to one day play pro hockey.

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