Coming back after a devastating loss in the finals last spring, the St. Paul’s Crusaders hockey team is back with a vengeance, head coach Andrew Harder said.
"Last year we lost in the quarterfinals," Harder said of last year’s AAAA provincial championship. "It was the first year in 10 years that we didn’t win it or make it to the finals.
"Last year was not a good ending, that’s for sure."
This year the Crusaders are ranked in the number one spot in the province’s AAAA level with a 13-0 record in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League’s Platinum Promotions Division. With both new and experienced blood on the team, Harder said he knows his team wants to forget the past.
"Half the guys are here from last year and yeah, it bugs them," Harder said. "Maybe that’s a motivating factor but we don’t really talk about it because it’s a different team and a different year.
"It definitely doesn’t hurt if they are."
Harder is happy with his team, saying they are buying into offensive and defensive systems.
"We’re a real hard-working group," Harder said. "We’re a pretty skilled group to begin with and when you couple that with them buying in and working hard, it’s a good combination."
Harder said his goal for the New Year is no different than any other teams.
"You want to win the championships for sure," Harder said. "That would be everybody’s goal.
We’re more interested in how to get there as opposed to just doing it. So if we are just doing all the little things and working really hard and staying humble and just staying focused, I think good things happen from that."
In the new year, the Crusaders will be working on new skills to up their game even further, Harder said.
"We know we need to maintain our focus and make sure complacency doesn’t creep in," Harder said. "We can’t be satisfied with being undefeated and being ranked number one. That is just the starting point. You’re only as good as your last game."
That being said, Harder knows there is a target on his team’s back. Instead of backing down, the Crusaders are embracing it.
"Every team wants to play us as tough as they can and we like that," Harder said.