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Lancers, Sabres rule

Dakota defends girls title; Springfield earns first boys C crown

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The Dakota Lancers celebrates victory over Fort Richmond Collegiate in the deciding game of the high school girls' final Thursday night.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Dakota Lancers celebrates victory over Fort Richmond Collegiate in the deciding game of the high school girls' final Thursday night. Photo Store

One team, the Springfield Collegiate Sabres boys hockey squad, hadn't won a championship in school history.

Another team, the Dakota Collegiate Lancers girls, were defending a high school championship they won last year.

Two teams with two very different back stories, in other words. But they came together on Thursday night at the MTS Iceplex as the final two teams to be crowned champions of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League.

And they both did it by overcoming a common foe -- adversity.

For the Sabres, overcoming adversity meant snapping a seven-year championship drought that went back to the start of the school's hockey program -- and then overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the final series with back-to-back wins over the Warren Wildcats, including a 5-2 victory Thursday night in the third and deciding game of the boys C-Division championship.

"This is huge for our program," said Sabres head coach Severyn Wojcik. "We've got kids that are passionate about winning and building a good, positive culture. And I think this is going to really build momentum for our program because we've got a lot of good young players coming up this year.

"Any time we had adversity this year, they battled back every time. And that's just a testament to the leaders we have on this team."

For the Lancers, overcoming adversity meant rebuilding a team that won a title last season but lost a lot of key players to graduation and had to be rebuilt from the ground up, culminating with a 2-0 victory over the Fort Richmond Centurions in the third and deciding game of the girls A-division championship.

"This is amazing. We worked really, really hard this year to try to win this twice in a row," said Lancers forward Trina Allard. "It was really tough coming back with a different team and new players. And to start out fresh and rebuild a team is difficult.

"I really feel like we did a great job."

 

Springfield 5 Warren 2

The Sabres opened the scoring midway through the first period on an unassisted sharp-angle shot by forward Nate Renooy, but the Wildcats tied the score just a couple minutes later when forward Landon Gray got loose on a breakaway to notch a short-handed equalizer.

But 1:18 later -- and with just 15 seconds left in the opening period -- Sabres forward Riley Welsh put his squad in front for good at 2-1 on a night Welsh would later be named his team's MVP of the final.

"I haven't won a championship since peewee," said Welsh. "This is a great feeling."

A former Swift Current Broncos draft pick and AAA player with the Eastman Selects, Welsh decided he wanted to play with friends in Oakbank in his Grade 12 year and joined the Sabres -- a decision that paid off with a championship.

"I decided to come back and play for my hometown this year and this is great to win a championship with the boys," Welsh said.

The Sabres lost the series opener to Warren, but responded with back-to-back wins Wednesday and Thursday.

"Whatever this team lacked in talent, they made up with heart," said Wojcik. "And I think that's what got us through the tough times this year. I really feel like this team wanted to win more than any other team in the league."

Springfield's other goal scorers were Matt Lamoureux, Austin Charles and Jayden Wolfe. Cody Melo had Warren's other goal.

 

Dakota 2 Fort Richmond 0

With the Lancers clinging to a 1-0 lead in the third period, Dakota forward Trina Allard found the back of the net at 7:59 for the insurance marker.

Dakota goaltender Sydney Urwin then did the rest, turning back a total of 18 shots to record the shutout.

The Lancers also beat Fort Richmond in the opening game of their final series, but Fort Richmond won Wednesday to force Thursday's deciding game.

Lancers head coach Brad Johnston said nothing for his team came easy this season as they attempted to successfully defend their title from last year.

"We had our ups and downs all season and it was the same thing in the playoffs. We were looking pretty strong going into the finals and we faced some adversity and came through like we did all year," said Johnston.

"We lost six or seven girls from last year's team -- pretty important pieces. So I think some people counted us out. But we came back, worked hard and grinded out another win, which is nice."

Allard was her team's MVP of the final and will graduate this year a two-time high school hockey champion.

"To end my high school career like this -- it's just amazing," said Allard.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2014 C7

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