Longtime friends collect team awards at UofL banquet
Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 06:00 am
A pair of Airdronians were recognized for their efforts in the 2016-17 USports season by the University of Lethbridge (UofL) at the Pronghorns’ 50th annual Blue and Gold Banquet March 31.
Lifelong friends Spenser Jensen and Curtis Contenti may have had different paths but their friendship never separated them on their respective routes to becoming Pronghorns.
Both athletes grew up in Airdrie and played hockey within the Airdrie Minor Hockey Association. After their final year of peewee hockey, Contenti dropped hockey in order to focus on his soccer aspirations, while Jensen continued on with his career on the ice.
“It’s awesome,” Jensen said. “We met when we were so young, grew up together and are still best pals.”
Following an impressive stint in soccer in both Airdrie and Calgary, Contenti furthered his soccer career as a member of the Pronghorns, becoming a staple on the team.
At the conclusion of his fourth year at the UofL, the defender was awarded the MK4 Award in honour of former-coach and player Marcus Karpati, who passed away of cancer in 2014.
“It meant a lot to get that award from the team and coaches,” Contenti said. “I was able to be coached by (Karpati) my first full year, so I got to know him pretty well. He was a really good guy.”
The award is handed out to a player that best exemplifies dedication and passion to the sport of soccer, something the fourth-year had no problem doing this season. Appearing in six games, Contenti finished with no goals or assists, but helped his team to two clean sheets and helped shut down four wins in that time.
The Pronghorns men’s soccer team finished fourth in the Prairie Division this season with an 8-6-2 record and fell in the Canadian West quarterfinals to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
With the 2016-17 season being the best result for the Pronghorns in recent years, Contenti is already looking forward to returning to the team for his final season.
“I’m planning on finishing strong and keeping everything going from last season,” Contenti said. “We had a really good year, so (this award) is definitely motivating for sure.”
After completing a lengthy junior career in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Medicine Hat Tigers, Jensen joined the Pronghorns during the 2015-16 USports season and appeared in all 28 games for his new team.
The 21-year-old followed up his rookie campaign with another strong season on the blueline, finishing the year with a goal and six assists and playing in all 28 games for a second year in a row.
“I like the USports league a lot,” Jensen said. “Compared to junior, it’s a lot less games. It felt like my body wore down and I wasn’t able to play as best as I could in junior. In this league, I find it easier to play at the top of my game.”
For his play on the point, Jensen was named the recipient of the Lon Ferguson Award as the Pronghorns Best Defenceman for the 2016-17 season in just his second year with the team.
“I was lucky to get it,” Jensen said. “I had a fairly good year, but I wasn’t honestly that much better than I was last year. I feel like all the defencemen are similar. You could have picked any of us for best defenceman.”
The Pronghorns continued to make progress as a hockey program last season en route to an 11-14-3 season, finishing seventh in the Canada West regular season standings and just missing out on a spot in the post-season by two points.
With a young core built around its current second-year players, Jensen has increased expectations heading into the 2017-18 season, not only for himself but for the Pronghorns program as a whole.
“(Not making the playoffs) was disappointing this year,” Jensen said. “Last year we just missed it as well, but this year it felt like we were a team that deserves to be in the playoffs and could have even won a round in the playoffs if we got on a roll…Hopefully we can pull together and come back just as strong or even stronger.”