After back-to-back seasons of qualifying for provincials, the Portage Collegiate Institute Trojans have taken a step back from their winning ways of years past.

Head coach Andrew Cherkas says a few factors have contributed to the hard times of a 3-11 record. Losing a lot of veterans has been hard on a team that has had to plug in a lot of raw rookies who have promise but need to be at a higher level to win more games.

"It's been challenging to get on the right side of the win column, but I'm really happy with how the guys are progressing through the season. We've had stretches of weeks where we've played very well, got some wins, and contended with some top teams in the league. Then we've had some stretches where we don't play the way we like, and we've been on the wrong side of some lopsided scores. So, inconsistency is definitely something we're going to focus on. But all in all, we've made great strides since the end of September when we started up."

Cherkas says that as the team moves toward the playoffs, they have to focus on playing more of a team game.

"We've got to all be on the same page and trying to play within some sort of structure. That's been the most challenging thing for the coaching part of it, getting these players to buy into a system that can produce results and wins. If we get playing too individually or we get away from our structure. It can get messy at times. What we really need to focus working on is exiting our own zone and defensive structure."

Cherkas isn't new to being a bench boss for the Trojans, as he was the head coach from 2010-2013 before returning for this season. He talks about what the team need to learn before they can find a consistent groove.

"Some of our younger guys are going to have to learn to take some contact to make a play and be comfortable doing that. Until we get there, it's going to be challenging for sure."

Cherkas, a former Portage Terrier, says that the team understood they had to build together coming into the year.

"We knew we were going to come together and learn a lot of new stuff. Hopefully, that's starting to sink in, and now we can push forward. There's no team in this league we haven't given a good game."

The Trojans head coach says that if the boys can figure out the structure part of the game, anything is possible in the playoffs. 

"We'll give some teams, if nothing else, a scare, and they shouldn't want to play us in the first round of the playoffs because these guys will be ready to go." 

The Trojans next game will be in Swan Lake on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Mountain Mustangs.