Gophers crowned league champs
The Garden City Collegiate Gophers varsity boys hockey team has won its first divisional championship, after defeating the St. Paul’s Crusaders 2-1 in a best-of-three series.
Through the regular season, the two teams sat at the top of the standings in the Platinum Promotions Division of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League.
Garden City muscled its way through the competition all year long, winning 23 of 24 contests, and even pushing their one loss into overtime. St. Paul’s didn’t quite match that formidable feat, yet boasted an impressive 16-3-3-1 record.
In game one of the finals, St. Paul’s, which historically has been the powerhouse of the two, tallying at least 16 divisional titles, shook the Gophers with a convincing 6-1 win.
“There was definitely disappointment, in terms of how we came out for game one,” said Garden City head coach Dustin Hughes. “But one thing this team is, is it’s tough mentally — the leadership group especially, and the rest of the boys responded with a big game.”
In game two the Gophers evened the series with a 5-2 win, setting up a deciding game the next evening. Garden City prevailed, with a score of 4-2, to win the divisional banner.
“The boys are pretty happy about winning the league championship. It’s always a good feeling when you do something special like that. It takes a lot of time and effort to get there,” he said.
Hughes made special mention of seven players who comprise the team’s leadership group: forwards Colson Smith (the league’s leading point producer), Lucas Desousa (the league’s goal-scoring leader), and Owen Lourenco; defencemen Nixon Carriere (top of the league in points by a defenceman, and fourth overall) and Parker Grift; and goaltending duo Nick Pochinco and Evan Banera (second and third respectively for goals against average).
For 17-year-old Banera, the win has a bit of extra personal significance. This year was the first and perhaps only year that he would get to play on a team with younger brother Noah.
“Part of the reason I was playing high school this year was to play hockey with him, and it was just amazing to win the championship and to do it with family like that,” Banera said.
The Banera brothers played AAA last year on a team that struggled a bit, so he was “over the moon” to play with older players and have the kind of success that Garden City had this year.
Noah, 15, was a bit more succinct about it all: “It was great. It was fun,” he said.
The brothers and the Garden City hockey machine motored into the provincial championships, which began on March 10 (results were not available at press time).
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7206.