A perfect 28-0 record against fellow Canadian Sport School Hockey League teams and back-to-back titles — four in the past five years — might make it look like Shawnigan Lake School’s midget varsity team had an easy run this season, but according to head coach James Pollock, that was not the case.
“We definitely had our ups and downs and challenges along the way,” Pollock stated.
The losses don’t show up on their record, but there were a few as Shawnigan struggled against American Elite 15 teams.
“We had good showings, but we didn’t have success,” Pollock pointed out. “Sometimes it’s good to lose. It’s good to have that adversity as a group and as players.”
Pollock has been with the midget varsity team for five years, and all four CSSHL titles, and notes that every year there are different challenges that he has to adapt to. While this year’s squad went undefeated, they didn’t peak until the playoffs, which is what Pollock was aiming for.
“As successful as we were as a group, we definitely grew together over the season,” he said. “It wasn’t like we peaked the first weekend and rode that wave.”
The CSSHL championships featured three divisions of three teams, with the top two after pool play advancing to the semis and the next four to the quarter-finals. As it played out, the teams who got the byes — Shawnigan and Prairie Hockey Academy — ended up meeting in the final.
“It was great for us to get that bye,” Pollock noted. “It was a bit of a grind that day.”
The semis and the final were held the same day. Shawnigan went down 2-0 early in the semifinal against Calgary’s Edge School, then came back to win 5-4.
In the final, Victoria’s Aaron Trotter made 25 saves to lead Shawnigan to a 4-0 win over PHA. Nicholas Winchester, Rhys Dutcyvich, Alex Robins and Riley Billy did the scoring. Dutcyvich finished the tournament with 10 points (six goals and four assists) in four games, and was named MVP, while Matt Strilets was named the top defenceman. The team was also loaded with unsung heroes in the playoffs.
“As you see with NHL teams, there are always guys you don’t expect to step up who step up,” Pollock said. “We had guys who weren’t expected to play a major role that did.”
Three other Shawnigan teams also made their respective CSSHL championship tournaments. The midget prep team went 1-2 in pool play, the bantam prep team went 0-4, and the female prep team went 1-2.
This year’s midget varsity team will see as many as a dozen players move up to midget prep next year, leaving spots open for Grade 11 and 12 players coming into the school and players coming up from the bantam ranks. Everyone will have to earn their playing time, however.
“There aren’t any guaranteed spots on the varsity team,” Pollock said.