The Portage Collegiate Trojans hockey team is back in the finals.
It took them three overtimes but PCI prevailed in Game 2 4-3 over the Pembina Tigers to sweep the best-of-three semi-final series. Head coach Dave Van Deynze says it took everything to take down the Tigers.
"We played the night before, so it was back-to-back nights, and then we ended up playing into a third overtime period before we could close it out," Van Deynze explains. "Guys were gassed. I can't say enough good things about the effort. The team really came together and left everything out on the ice, and it was just enough."
The head coach says, at that point in a game, the basics are what matter the most.
"It's just about motivation and just trying to remind them about the mental toughness of the game," Van Deynze continues. "When you get tired, that's when you start to miss assignments, and things start to get a little bit tougher. It's about being deliberate and keeping it as simple as possible. The winner was a shot from the point that ended up sneaking through a few bodies and ended up in the back of the net. Sometimes keeping it as simple as you can is the best way to get out of situations like that."
Van Deynze notes the game sheet may say otherwise, but the locker room has been giving credit to Brandon Patterson as the game-winning-goal scorer, tipping the puck on its way in.
Tonight will be the start of a new challenge for the Trojans as they host the Morden Thunder in Game 1 of the Zone 4 High School Hockey League finals.
"Morden has been at the top of the league all year, and we've had some real good games with them. It's going to take everything we have to come out with this one as well," says Van Deynze. "It's going to be a big battle for us. So, we're looking forward to it. I think we're as ready as we can be."
PCI won two of the three matchups against the Thunder this season, however, Morden has four of the top five scorers in the playoffs. However, the Trojans have all of the top three scorers in the league from the regular season, JJ Oke (60 points), Cam Sarna (55 points), and Alex Van Deynze (52 points).
Portage will host Game 1 tonight at Stride Place but then have a bit of a layoff until Game 2.
"It's a bit of a challenging schedule for us. We got awarded to go to provincials because we were at the top of the league after the regular season," Van Deynze continues. "So, we have high school hockey provincials the weekend of March 10. So, we have Game 1 tonight, then we're going to focus on provincials for a few days, and when we're done with provincials, we're going to come back and try to finish up that series. We have a lot of hockey left here in the next 7-10 days."
This will be the most eventful week of hockey the boys have played all year, and Van Deynze says they're pumped up about it.
"They're real excited, and as a coach, I am too. Every game we've played in these playoffs, we were either down a goal or two or had some adversity thrown our way. The boys just never quit. That's carried through right to our third overtime period the other night. The resiliency they have and the 'never quit' attitude is real exciting from a coaching perspective. I'm really looking forward to these next few games."
The Trojans and Thunder will face off tonight in Portage at 7:00.