The Murdoch MacKay Clansmen hadn’t had much hockey success prior to this year, but they made up for it in a big way.
The Clansmen dominated the Winnipeg High School Hockey League’s C Division to the tune of a 20-1-1 regular season record, and capped the campaign with an undefeated run through the post-season.
The best-of-three final series against the Linden Christian Wings came down to a shootout in Game 2, which the Clansmen won 5-4 in the third round of sudden-death shots. Captain Tad Fraser scored for the Clansmen on a deke to his forehand, and goalie Blake Landry followed it up with a save to clinch the title.
"I just have this move I always do," said Fraser, a Grade 12 student from Transcona who decided to play high school hockey rather than AA this year. "I decided to go with what I was confident with and hope it worked out. It was a relief that I put it in, and then it was excitement when (Landry) stopped the next one."
Second-year coach Scott Antaya said the commitment and drive from his players was what put the team over the top.
"Early on I thought we had a good team," Antaya said. "But I’m never one to put the cart before the horse. I was continuously telling everyone to make sure they dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and that they haven’t won anything yet."
The majority of the Murdoch roster was made up of Grade 10 players with AA experience who decided to play for their school. Fraser said high school hockey had a different feel from what he was used to.
"I felt more pride," he said, "because a lot more fans were at the games, and every morning there would be an announcement and the whole school would hear how the team did. There’s a lot of school spirit, and it makes you feel more pumped up for the games."
The crowds only got bigger as the season went on. By the time the final rolled around, the team had taken the school by storm.
"Everyone was cheering us on," Fraser said. "People I didn’t even know came up to me and congratulated me."
After a dominant regular season, the Clansmen faced some stiff tests in the playoffs. Their opening contest against Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a one-goal game, as was their second semifinal game against Churchill. Game 1 of the final against Linden Christian went Murdoch’s way, 4-2, and the final game, of course, couldn’t have been any closer.
Antaya said his constant reminders to the team throughout the season to play every game to the final buzzer came in handy when, all of a sudden, things started to tighten up.
"At times it was tough to get them motivated, especially when they were up a lot, but we harped on practising good habits," Antaya said.
With most of the roster eligible to return next season, look for the Clansmen in the B Division as they attempt to take the program to the next level.