Some teenagers choose to play hockey for their high school’s team because it requires less of a time commitment than AA or AAA. That isn’t the case at Westwood Collegiate.
When you sign up to play for the Warriors, you can expect to be working nearly year-round toward the ultimate goals of city and provincial championships.
Last season, the Warriors were the last team standing in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League, but came up short in the AAAA provincial boys’ final against Vincent Massey.
This year’s quest to become just the third team to win both titles in the same year began anew long before there was snow on the ground.
"Dry-land training is a big part of our program," said Warriors coach Jim West. "We start in July and go all the way through the summer to September. In some ways we can put in more time than AAA because the players are all at school together during noon hours and after school."
All that off-ice work, along with a strong corps of eight returning players, has the Warriors perched atop the WHSHL standings as well as the latest provincial rankings, sporting a 12-1-1 record after 14 games.
"We haven’t really been thinking about (how close we came to both titles) last season," said Grade 12 left-winger Josh Kazuk, who was leading the league in points (31) and assists (16) and was second in goals (15).
"We’ve been getting past it, and obviously we’re having a really good year."
Instead of looking towards the playoffs, West has his players thinking about what they can do individually to help the team win games.
"This year we’ve been pretty focused so far," he said. "Everybody is playing their roles well."
West hasn’t had to worry about building a compatible team, as most of the players are long-time friends who have played hockey together in the past. With chemistry a non-issue, the Warriors have been focused on lighting up scoreboards more than any other team in the league.
Kazuk, a Westwood resident, has emerged as a top offensive weapon, while Jesse Antonyshen (13 goals), Brendan Luschinski (10) and Tyler Arnason (10) are all helping to replace some of the scoring the Warriors lost to graduation.
"Lat year as a Grade 11 I wasn’t huge into scoring," he said. "I’m just trying to fill the place of the scorers that left. Lots of Grade 12s are stepping up this year."
Meanwhile, goalies Brandon Taylor and Brad Hill have split time equally in net with neither one giving an inch as the coaching staff waits for a clear No. 1 to emerge.
"I think they’re the top two in the league right now," West said. "Both are doing a great job. There’s definitely no No. 1 yet."