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This article was published 12/1/2018 (1630 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Kildonan East Reivers boys hockey team is hoping to build momentum for a playoff push in the final games of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League regular season.
Coming off a 2-1 win against College Beliveau on Jan. 10, the Reivers were preparing to head to Morden for a tournament.
Head coach David Ramsay said he was going to take the opportunity to ask each player if they feel they’ve improved since the start of the season, and if they think the team has improved.
"I hope they’ll say yes," Ramsay, who is in his first season as head coach of the Reivers, said. "I think we have. I think we’ve had some growth."
Early in the season, the boys found themselves hobbled by undisciplined play. Ramsay says they’ve turned that around.
"The discipline issue is no longer on my radar," he said. "The kids know we have to stay out of the box to stay successful. I’m proud of the guys on the team. They’ve really come together to support each other."
Going into the tourney in Morden, the Reivers had seven regulation wins, an overtime win and a shootout win, along with two OT losses and a shootout loss in their 19 league games. Their record, good for 28 points, put them in sixth place in the tight, 13-team Winnipeg Free Press ‘B’ Division. With only five league games left before the playoffs, though, every point counts.
"There’s a lot of parity in this division," Ramsay noted. With the top three teams earning a bye past the first round, and KEC unlikely to crack that top three, the Reivers know they’re in for a grind.
"Everybody wants to win the finals, as every team does," said Ryan Eck, a Grade 11 defenceman with one assist and two penalty minutes in 13 games this season. "I’m sure we can, if we focus more defensively, instead of everyone rushing to the front."
Maintaining their defensive systems is something the Reivers have been working to improve over the course of the season.
"We’ve had injuries to some of our core players, which has made us improvise," said Connor Becker, another Grade 11 defenceman. "Now that we’re getting healthy, we should improve."
"As a whole team, we’ve done a lot of work," Ramsay said. "Other teams aren’t getting as many goals in front as previously."
However, the Reivers aren’t alone when it comes to improving defensively. Offence was something that came easy to the team early this season but Ramsay noted that goals are harder to come by as other teams improve their defensive games.
"I’m encouraging the kids to get to the net with traffic," Ramsay said. "We gotta get to the net, to get rebounds and tip ins and the ones that go in off your ass."
"We’re starting to produce again like at the start of the season," added Callum Henderson, a Grade 11 right winger who is second in team scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists in 18 games. "We’re trying to get more garbage goals and rebounds. If we can produce more, we should win games."
"We have strong goaltending, which has bailed us out of a couple games," added Becker, who has two goals, an assist, and 10 penalty minutes this season.
Brendan Kraynyk, the Reivers starting goaltender, has a 9-8 record and a 2.81 goals against average.
For the Reivers to enjoy success into the playoffs and beyond, the boys will have to continue working together.
"We’re a good enough team that we don’t really lack in any area, if we’re all on our game," Becker said. "As long as we give our effort, there’s not a team we can’t play with. We’re tenacious, we just gotta send it."
The Reivers next home game at Gateway Rec Centre (1717 Gateway Rd.) is on Jan. 23 vs. Collége Jeanne Sauve. Puck drops at 4 p.m.
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112