Blake Spiller knows his Portage Terriers have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup which opens Saturday in Estevan.
Five teams. Only two move on to the RBC Cup next month. The MJHL champions are aiming to be one of those two.
“We know there’s going to be pressure on our guys and a bit of nerves,” said the Terriers’ GM/Head Coach. “But pressure and nerves can sometimes be a good thing. We know it’s going to be tough. I also know that our guys are going to do what they have to do to get the job done.”
Including Spiller, four other Terriers have previous WCC experience: Brad and Shawn Bowles, Dean Stewart and Brett Orr. For everyone else, the WCC will be a new experience. A grinding experience to be sure, with four games scheduled over five days.
“Once you get to this level, all the teams are good,” said Spiller. “That’s a given. There’s not going to be an easy game. Last year was a good experience…..we ended up losing the final in overtime.
“It’s a short tournament and it’s important you get your team going early. If you have a bad game or two early, even if you do start to win later in the week you could find yourselves out of it. One loss doesn’t mean you’re out of it, but you can’t afford to have a couple of bad games.”
While Spiller supports the WCC concept, he also believes the former best-of-seven ANAVET Cup playoff had its share of benefits.
“In a best-of-seven, it gives a more accurate indication of who the better team is,” he said. “There was also the rivalry aspect for the fans. And, there was also the financial stand-point, where you would host a series of games and the attendance was usually very good.”
Spiller admits that this year’s WCC experience will have more pressure than last year’s tournament staged in Fort McMurray.
“We knew going in (last year) that we were hosting the RBC Cup,” said Spiller. “There was pressure to do well and compete, but not the pressure we’ll face this year.”
Drawing upon last year’s experience, Spiller and his coaching staff have an active agenda set-out for their club heading into Estevan.
“We obviously want to keep the focus on hockey, but we also realize they are young guys and we want their experience to be a positive one. We’ll have team meals, team meetings, video sessions and skates.
“There’s going to be pressure, but our team has shown they can rise to the occasion.”
Dauphin Kings hosted the WCC back in 2014. The 2017 WCC will be held in Penticton, B.C.