The Winnipeg Hawks AAA bantam hockey team would love to sink its claws into another title but they'll have to withstand a Shark bite first.
The Hawks, city and provincial champions in the boys' 14-year-old age group, are the provincial representative at the 2011 Western Canada Bantam Championship, which begins Thursday at the MTS Iceplex.
Opening the five-team tournament is a 1 p.m. game between the Hawks and the Winnipeg Sharks, the host team and the Hawks' local rivals and city finalist team.
The tournament will conclude Sunday with the bronze-medal game at 10 a.m. and the championship game at 1 p.m. A full schedule and live scoring can be found at Hockey Winnipeg's website (www.wmha.mb.ca)
The other teams in the tournament are Saskatchewan's Prince Albert Venice House Pirates, Edmonton SSAC Southgate Lions from Alberta and B.C.'s Burnaby Winter Club.
"We have to go into the game against the Sharks the way we did through the playoffs, focused on playing our best right from the start," said Adam Brooks, Hawks captain and league scoring leader with 53 goals and 90 points in 30 regular-season games.
"We're all a bit nervous going in but I think that we all know that we have a shot at winning (the championship) so we're going to play our best game and take our best shot at winning it. We want to make sure we make the most of it, make the memories."
Brooks, a Grade 9 student at West Kildonan Collegiate, said the Hawks' defensive team play was the team's biggest improvement through the season.
The Sharks, who lost 4-0 to the Hawks in the best-of-seven city championship series, had beaten the Hawks twice during the regular season.
"We had a great season and we proved we have the capability to beat them but this is a one-game series and anyone can win it," said Sharks captain Ryley Lindgren, a Grade 9 student at Robert Andrews School in East St. Paul.
"This is a great opportunity for our team. It was one of our goals from the start of the year to participate in this event and we've achieved that. Now we're here and very excited to compete against all the top teams in Western Canada."
Hawks head coach Neil Chow said his team will need all its weapons to succeed in this tournament.
"Adam has a gift around the net and the ability of the team to play a team game allows him to do what he does best," Chow said, noting the Hawks rotate three lines regularly.
"We're going to take a level-headed approach, have fun and play our best. We always talk about the first 10 minutes, you may not feel comfortable but you've got a whole game to play."