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This article was published 21/8/2015 (2226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WASAGAMING — Zach Whitecloud would love to win a Manitoba Junior Hockey League title with the Virden Oil Capitals this winter, but he’s eyeing another championship first.
The 18-year-old Brandonite has advanced to the junior men’s final at the 82nd annual Tamarack golf tournament with a 2 and 1 win over Dylan Williamson on Thursday morning. It’s the first time Whitecloud has made it to the championship final and he’d love to age out of the division on top.
"It means quite a bit (to get into the final)," said Whitecloud. "I’ve been playing quite a bit of golf this summer. Training with hockey is my main focus but golf on the side. I managed to practise enough and come here and have a great showing."
Whitecloud hasn’t competed in any major tournaments this year, opting to practise and put himself in situations he wouldn’t normally be in. The Tamarack is the only serious event he plays in.
The six-foot-two, 196-pound defenceman has also been training in Brandon to try to get quicker and more agile for the upcoming hockey season.
The Oil Caps finished fifth in the regular season with a 30-20-10 record before winning a first-round playoff series against Winkler. They lost to the RBC Cup champion Portage Terriers in the second round.
Last year’s success has Whitecloud excited for the upcoming campaign and for camp to start.
"(Head coach) Troy Leslie has a good squad together and he’s got the right thing going here," Whitecloud said. "I put in a lot of work over the summer and I believe I can be a good standout defenceman this year and make a lot of moves. I had a great season last year, but this year is going to be even better."
Whitecloud hopes to become a leader on the hockey team and is heading out to Virden early to prepare.
"I’ve been waiting for this since as soon as playoffs ended. I eat and sleep hockey," he said.
"Not many kids like going to small towns and living there, but I love getting away from the city and being in Virden; it’s one of my favourite places to be in."
As excited as he is for camp, Whitecloud knows he has some business to take care of at the Clear Lake Golf Course first. He wants to win his first Tamarack title and has to beat Kolby Day, who defeated Riley Schaus 2 and 1 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
There’s a lot of motivation for both players as neither has been in a championship final before and both age out after this tournament. Whitecloud expects a tight match.
"We’re pretty good friends," he said. "It’s going to be a huge battle. That guy loves to play golf and he’s extremely good at it.
"I’m going to have to work really hard and make smart decisions against that guy."
» Twitter: @jasterch