The Portage Collegiate Trojans hockey team could be crowned the top high school team in the province this weekend.
PCI kicks off the Manitoba High School Athletic Association's AAAA Provincial Championship today at 9 a.m. against the St. Paul's Crusaders. Head coach Dave Van Deynze says the team is excited about the opportunity.
"It certainly is a real honour to come out of Zone 4 as the representative in provincials. We're not taking that responsibility lightly," Van Deynze explains. "We're going in there trying to do what we can, knowing there's going to be some real good competition but we're excited to do that."
PCI has two round-robin games today, and they will more than likely need to win one in order to advance to the semi-finals. The Trojans take on the Westwood Warriors in the afternoon but start off with a very tough task.
"Game one is against St. Paul's. They won provincials last year, if I remember correctly. They're going to be real good, as many of the teams are. It's going to be a real good game. We'll have to be at our best to compete with them."
Van Deynze says they're going to show how hard they can play from the opening puck drop.
"For us, it's about getting on the forecheck as best we can and playing solid defensively in our own end. They're going to have a lot of skilled guys, so we're going to have to their chances down to a minimum and keep them to the outside," Van Deynze explains. "It's going to be about relying on each other to make sure that we're all doing our job out there and working as a team the best we can."
This is the second consecutive provincials appearance for the Trojans, and Van Deynze believes they can use last year's experience to their advantage.
"Every team that's there is highly skilled. In some cases, they may be more skilled than what we're used to playing against. So, it's going to be about playing your best every shift. If you take a shift off, the puck is likely in the back of your net. You have to be ready to compete every time you step foot on the ice because you know the other teams are going to do that."
The Trojans know the odds are against them at an event like this, however, the head coach notes they'll be happy as long as they put forth their best effort.
"It'd be safe to say we're likely an underdog coming in here, so it's really about our best effort and showing that we belong here," says Van Deynze. "It's really about turning some heads and making sure people realize there's some real good hockey played out at PCI."
The Trojans will play in the first game of provincials today in Winnipeg at 9 a.m. Their second game is set for 1:00.