March 2, 2015
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The Winkler Flyers are a much improved team this year. They’re poised to enjoy home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, have a winning record with more than 30 wins to date.
If only the Portage Terriers weren’t having a record-setting season for fewest losses, the Flyers might have been in contention for first place, and not battling Steinbach and Winnipeg for spots two through four. Such is hockey.
In the wake of Portage’s dominance, Winkler head coach and general manager Ken Pearson sees a positive to the Terriers’ outstanding season. He says that Portage has forced every team to step things up this year, and that’s helped the Flyers push themselves all season long.
“I think every year you strive to be the best, and the way the cycle’s gone, this was a year for us to be on the upswing,” said Pearson. “And with Portage hosting the Royal Bank Cup, it’s forced us to be that much better too.
“I think it’s been a good thing for the whole league to strive to be that much better, with the hopes of winning the league, and playing in the RBC.”
The Flyers are strong in all aspects of their game this year, especially in goal, where Dasan Sydora – a nominee for goalie of the year – has been nothing short of stellar.
“We’re getting good goaltending – Dasan Sydora has been with us from Day 1 and he’s been very good,” said Pearson. “And the addition of Devon Fordyce has provided us with two veteran goaltenders back there.”
Offensively, the Flyers have the only 40-goal man in the MJHL in Tristan Keck, provided them with a game-breaking type of player.
“When you look up front, Tristan Keck’s had a great season for us so far, and he’s been a big part of our success,” said the Winkler bench boss. “But we also finally have three lines who we can count on to score goals for us, and that’s a big reason for our success as well.”
The Flyers also had the challenge of playing most of January on the road (including practices) as their arena was transformed into a curling rink for the Manitoba Scotties. Pearson admits that was a tough grind but hopes that adversity can pay dividends come the playoffs.
“It created some challenges, but at the same time, it was an opportunity for us to do different things as a team, like keeping the guys busy with other events,” he said. “It is a distraction being away from your arena for three weeks, and it disrupts routines that guys are into, but overall we came out of it with almost a .500 record.
“Hopefully that situation will make us that much better in the playoffs.”
Speaking of the playoffs, which are fast approaching, Pearson said he wants to fine-tune a few things before the second season starts, likely with a date against the Virden Oil Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
“Consistency – I’d like to see us playing full games for the remainder of the stretch to prepare ourselves for the playoffs,” said Pearson. “We battled consistency all season long, where we’d play three really good games and then maybe have one or two off, but I think we’ve turned the corner on that in the last month.
“We also want to make sure our work ethic is where it needs to be.”