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Gophers rally with pair of victories

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The Garden City Gophers celebrate a goal during Wednesday evening's game against the Murdoch Mackay Clansmen.

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The Garden City Gophers celebrate a goal during Wednesday evening's game against the Murdoch Mackay Clansmen.

True to their name, the Garden City Fighting Gophers have fought their way out of a hole they dug earlier in the season.

The Winnipeg High School Hockey League team had a 2-3 record early last week, but after back-to-back wins against Murdoch MacKay (2-0) and Transcona (6-3) on Nov. 6 and 7, respectively, the Gophers were among the top teams in the league’s Winnipeg Free Press Division as of Fri., Nov. 8 with a 4-3 record.

Gophers head coach Allen Mironuk couldn’t be reached for comment on the wins by press time.

Before the club’s winning streak, he acknowledged the team had been facing difficulties.

"Right now, we’re struggling," he said. "It’s not for the lack of effort or a lack of shots on goal, but we’re struggling to score goals because they’re not buying into positioning on the ice, where they need to be. We’re trying to teach kids to be patient and play your position, instead of being puck chasers. That’s the biggest obstacle to overcome."

Mironuk, 52, co-founded the hockey program at Garden City Collegiate about 10 years ago. The gym teacher says the Gophers have a lot of new faces in the lineup this season, and many of those players are taking time to adapt.

"They were playing at the club level and sometimes its dad, and God bless dad for stepping up and being coach, but it’s systems," Mironuk said. "It’s implementing a system that’s at our school and having the kids defer from the one that they’ve previously been at. It’s hard at the
beginning to break those habits."

One of the team’s emerging stars is Gophers captain Chayce Viczina. Not only is Viczina leading the team in scoring, he’s a leader in the dressing room as well.   

"I give them my in-between periods talk during the games," said Viczina, 17, a Grade 12 student at GCC. "If I know the team I try to give (the Gophers) some inside in what they’re about. I don’t think there are any teams we can’t match up with."

Viczina — who patterns his play after Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron —  said
following coach Mironuk’s system will put the team on the right track.

"We just have to pick up the discipline a little bit," said Viczina before the Gopher’s hot streak.
"We have three goals in the last four games so we need to put the puck in the net a little more. Just goal scoring, communication, just team bonding would really help us out."

For the Gophers schedule and team statistics, check www.whshl.com

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