Laine Hruska: Made In Saskatchewan

The back of his goaltender’s helmet says “Made In Saskatchewan” and it is a moniker that Laine Hruska wears with pride.

The Warman, Sask., product spoke at a Moose Jaw Mustangs awards ceremony about his journey from the Queen City Minor Box Lacrosse leagues to making history in the National Lacrosse League.

At the age of 21 (he recently just turned 22), Hruska became the first Saskatchewan-born player to start a game for the Saskatchewan Rush and the first Saskatchewan-born goaltender to pick up a win.

He is currently residing in Kitchener, Ont., where he is playing Senior A ball with the Cobourg Kodiaks and Senior B with the Clearview Crushers.

Where It All Began

Hruska started playing lacrosse at the U13 level in the Queen City Minor Box Lacrosse based out of Regina, Sask. He started as a runner under head coach Jason Achtemichuk.

It was just by chance that Hruska would end up switching from a runner to a goaltender.

“We had a goalie on our team who was very scared of the ball and would flinch when he got shot at and he didn’t like it. Eventually, he stopped showing up,” Hruska said.

Achtemichuk then asked who wanted to play goal. Hruska also wanted to play goal in hockey and this was his chance and he took it.

After a few games, Achtemichuk continued to keep Hruska in goal and continued to draft him on it his minor lacrosse teams.

“Thank you Jason for never putting me back on the floor because I don’t think I would be where I am today as a runner,” Hruska said.

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A Made In Saskatchewan Goaltender

Hruska’s passion for goaltending grew leaps and bounds in the U15 division. He continued to look for ways to improve his game. And to do that, he turned to a Toronto Rock legend.

“I spent countless hours watching a YouTube video from a Rock goaltender from back in the day by the name of Bob Watson,” Hruska said. “It was through a new article. It was just a five-minute clip of him going through the basics of goaltending.”

Then Hruska took a risk. He went to the Bantam Saskatchewan SWAT training camp in Saskatoon. He went in order to get more practice but ended up making the team.

This meant making the drive from Regina to Saskatoon (about two hours one-way) every week for SWAT games.

After his final year of Bantam, it was decision time. Hruska was also playing hockey and heading into Midget (U18) lacrosse he had to focus on one or the other.

“I wasn’t good at hockey by any means so it was an easy decision to dedicate myself to full-time lacrosse,” Hruska said.

First Encounter With Derek Keenan

It was around this time that the Edmonton Rush made the move to Saskatoon to become the Saskatchewan Rush.

Hruska spent two years in Midget playing for the SWAT playing in the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse League. At the age of 14 or 15, he spent the majority of the season practicing with the Junior A SWAT, taking shots from players well above him.

In 2016 and 2017, Hruska played for the Junior Rush. In his second year with the Junior Rush, he was coached by his future General Manager Derek Keenan, and future teammate Ryan Keenan. That year he also competed with Team Saskatchewan at the Midget Nationals in Whitby.

Standout Junior Career

Hruska made the Juinor A SWAT right off the bat and spent two years with the team.

During his time in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL), he faced players like Ryan McLean (Panther City) and Harrison Matsuoka (Calgary Roughnecks). He also played alongside future Rush draft picks Zach Gould, Wyatt Haux, and Keagan White.

“As you can see, the RMLL has some amazing talent coming out of there, so I was fortunate enough to play against those guys,” he said.

Although he didn’t win a league championship, he was picked up by the Calgary Mountaineers and Okotoks Raiders for their Minto Cup runs.

His first year in the Minto Cup saw him face the like of Christian Del Bianco, Jeff Teat, and Clarke Petterson. As a matter of fact, he was named the MVP in the game against Teat and Petterson even though he got “lit up.”

Made In Saskatchewan Goes International

Hruska is a two-time gold medal winner when it comes to international competitions.

He made Team Canada in 2018 and 2019 at the World Junior Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Saskatoon and Mississauga

Hruska was also invited to Prague to take part in the European Box Lacrosse Tournament. He said it was interesting seeing all the different talent and the game growing in European nations.

Taking a chance

After his international experience, Hruska took a chance and tried out for the Arena Lacrosse League for future endeavors and possibly a chance at the National Lacrosse League.

Hruska was selected in the eighth round of the ALL draft by the Whitby Steelhawks. Whitby GM Brad MacArthur was a former Calgary Roughneck with ties to Alberta which clued him into Hruska. He moved to Ontario with his aunt and uncle to play with the Steelhawks.

“The jump I made in my lacrosse career and my talents grew exponentially in the caliber of the league and everything,” Hruska said.

In the 2020 ALL season, Hruska was named the ALL Rookie of the Year, the all-rookie team, and a second-team all-star.

Jump To The NLL

After the 2020 season, Hruska decided to enter the NLL draft. He said it was a nerve-racking time with meeting teams, speculation and mock drafts.

“I interviewed with a bunch of teams, probably five in total,” Hruska said. “I was fortunate to get a call at the last minute by Georgia and had close to an hour conversation with the GM John Arlotta. His whole thing about playing for the Swarm was character.”

Having a good feeling after that meeting, Hruska’s named was called by Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin in the first round, 13th overall.

His professional lacrosse career started off with the all-time high of getting drafted.

Up and Down Time In Georgia

“It was a big learning experience for me. Not only learning how to travel, but the little things you learn from teammates like wearing compression socks so your ankles don’t swell and everything like that.”

His time in Georgia started off great. He was learning from the likes of Poulin and Lyle Thompson every weekend. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

His first year in the NLL was cancelled and it was hard to keep in shape when gyms closed down. It was after training camp that things started to go downhill.

“I became very complacent about where I was,” Hruska said. “I thought ‘Oh, I’ve made the team. I’m good for the season. I can just go to work and go and fly.’ It took a little bit of a toll on both my mental and physical health.”

Hruska found himself out of shape and not as sharp. He sat down with his coaches to try and fix it right away, but there was not quick fix. He was released from the Swarm.

Coming home

After being released by the Swarm, Hruska started to question his future.

“It was a very nerve-racking 12 hours after being released. Especially as a rookie. You had no one to talk to. I was questioning whether my career was over or what the next step was,” Hruska said.

The phone rang. It was Derek Keenan. Hruska was offered to join the Rush for the final two weeks of his rookie season.

In the offseason, decided to re-sign with the Rush for a second season. This time he was leaving nothing to chance and learned from his mistakes in Georgia.

He was training six times per week in Kitchener and Saskatoon. Petterson, now with the Halifax Thunderbirds, moved to Saskatoon and trained with Hruska.

Training camp in 2022 was a four-week grind. There were four goaltenders in camp and there were no guarantees. In the end, he bumped Cam Dunkerley out for the practice roster spot.

During the season, there was no taking time off. He was hitting the gym between practices, being held accountable as the hardest worker and not turning down shots.

Making History

With two games left in the season, Hruska got the call he was waiting for. “You’re starting.”

The Rush were out of the playoffs and it was his chance to show himself and the coaches that he deserved to be on the team and make history in the process.

“It was definitely a nervous time especially looking at who I played, Colorado. Dillon Ward is someone I looked up to in my younger years,” Hruska said.

It took the first five minutes to settle down in front of the hometown crowd. He made a couple of shaky saves but then started to settle down. The game went into overtime. Hruska kept the team in it with some timely saves, while Robert Church scored the game-winner.

Hruska also started the season finale against Las Vegas. The Made in Saskatchewan goaltender made Saskatchewan proud, picking up his second win. He will now look to battle for a regular spot in the 2023-2024 season.

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Shawn Slaght
Shawn Slaght

Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.

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