Crocus Plainsmen goalie Tyrel Heap was third in the Westman High School Hockey League in goals-against average.
The Crocus Plainsmen believe they can make some noise at the provincial AAAA high school hockey championship in Winnipeg this weekend even though they feel like underdogs.
Crocus, the lone team from the Westman High School Hockey League at provincials, will have to deal with the Winnipeg league champion John Taylor Pipers in their opening game of the championship and then will battle the Stonewall Rams later today. The top two teams advance to Saturday’s playoffs with a chance to win the provincial title, and Plainsmen coach Peter Gerlinger believes his squad may be able to pull off an upset during the competition’s first day.
"We haven’t played (John Taylor) ourselves, but other teams in our league have played them and done very well against them," he said. "It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure, but it gives you something to cling on to in terms of hope.
"Stonewall’s a team that didn’t finish with a great record in the Winnipeg league, but did very well in tournaments and playoffs. It won’t be an easy fix for us for sure. It will take some hard work."
While the Plainsmen expect tough competition, they are heading into provincials with momentum on their side. Crocus has won seven of its last eight games — including a four wins in provincial qualifiers and a three victories in four in the league playoff games.
However, for the team to have success, the Plainsmen believe they’ll need solid goaltending from Tyrel Heap and Tyler Ingraham as well as timely goals.
Jake Cullen led the Plainsmen offensively with 18 goals and 29 points this season. While the Plainsmen, who were eighth in league scoring with 66 goals in 18 games, would have liked better offensive production, they had six players with at least 10 points this season. Crocus hopes a balanced attack will help it this weekend.
"If our first line’s not having a good game, we have support and other players who can put the puck in the net," said Cullen, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-winger who’s in Grade 12. "It takes pressure off our shoulders. It feels good when everyone’s scoring and all four lines are contributing. It helps us out."
Crocus is entering the provincial championship as one of the youngest teams — sporting seven players in Grade 10. The players have a lot of enthusiasm and are getting anxious to hit the ice and try to win the school’s first provincial high school hockey title since 2005.
"We’re very optimistic going in," Gerlinger said. "Our guys are excited to be playing and with that enthusiasm, you never know what will happen. It’s not always the best team that wins, but the one that works the hardest and I’m hoping that will be us."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 8, 2013