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Murdoch finding its stride on the ice
The Murdoch MacKay Clansmen have been building towards this for four years.
Ever since the Transcona school established a boys’ hockey team, it’s been a slow climb to the top of the standings.
Now the Clansmen are the favourites to win the Winnipeg High School Hockey League’s C Division.
Murdoch MacKay is off to a 9-0-1 start, outscoring opponents 63-22 in the process. The team leads the division in goals-for and goals-against.
"This year we had some good kids coming in from AA and AAA," said head coach Wally Stelmach, who has been managing or coaching the team since it was established. "These kids were progressing through the ranks and now they’re playing for their high school, which is a great thing."
Along with that infusion, the Clansmen have a crop of Grade 10 players who are new to high school hockey, and a handful of Grade 12 players who are in their third season with the team.
Assistant captain Kade Robertson is one of those third-year players. He said this season has been like night and day compared to his first two go-rounds.
"This is clearly the most skilled team we’ve had," said the defenceman from Transcona. "The attitude in the dressing room is mostly positive. It’s a lot easier to click as a team when you’re winning and things are going right."
Robertson said the Clansmen don’t have to look far to find a program they’d like to emulate. The Transcona Collegiate Titans started slowly in the C Division, eventually won a championship, and are now leading the B Division.
He thinks a title for Murdoch would set the team up for long-term success.
"It attracts so much attention once you have a good team," Robertson said. "More players want to try out and play for the team."
The team’s success starts in net, where the duo of Blake Landry and Mathew Shewchuk have been tough to beat. Three solid defensive pairings, along with a forward corps that’s dedicated to protecting its own zone add to the frustration level of opponents.
"We’re taking care of our own zone first," Stelmach said. "After that, it’s easy."
If things continue the way they’ve started, the Clansmen fully expect to be division champs in 2013.
"If we play as a team there’s not another team that even challenges us," a confident Robertson said.
Stelmach can’t help but think about what a title would mean to the program after paying its dues for the first three years.
"That’s what we’re hoping for," he said. "I’d really like to bring a pennant to the school to hang it up in the gym."
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