The Steinbach Millers had a pretty exciting season as they won their second provincial championships in a row.
Steinbach Millers Coach Kevin Schellenberg says it’s pretty incredible.
"That's some few and far between. To win one is hard enough as it is, but to win back-to-back like that with a couple graduating players out, a couple of new players in,” he says. “And then buying into systems, and work ethic, and all the above... it's incredible. It's a good feeling.”
During provincials, there were five games in total, three of which were round robin games.
Graduating player, Gavin Pidsadny, says they tied with Niverville in their first round robin game.
"We didn't play the best and we were kind of down, but after a tie that we weren't expecting, we knew we were going to come out stronger.”
After playing Niverville, the Millers won their other two round robin games.
“Which were much tougher opponents, but we still won them.”
Then in the semi-finals, they beat Lakeside which they had previously lost to in a past tournament.
For their last game, they won in the finals against Pinaymootang. The final score was 7-1, so it was a decisive win in the championship game.
"But it didn't really feel like the game was over until probably 5 minutes left in the third... we were up like 5 or 6 to 1, but we weren't satisfied until the end.”
Pidsadny says although it was a great experience, getting older can be tough.
“It is a little sad. I've been playing hockey my whole life, I think 13 years now. It was quite emotional on the ice. I took it all in and thought ‘maybe next year I'm not going to have a chance to be here again.’ So it's bittersweet.”
He says the team that won this year was pretty much the same team from last year, other than the guys who graduated out and the new Grade 10s that came in.
Pidsadny can’t believe that he is graduating with two provincial titles under his belt.
“Before these last two years, I'd never won anything in provincials throughout my whole hockey career.”
He says he couldn’t feel better about the way he is getting to graduate.
“I honestly could not write a better story to go out with. It's perfect. Exactly what I wanted.”
It means a lot to him to have won provincials twice, especially alongside a team that is so close.
“I love them all. Especially this year we've grown together so much, and I'd say everyone on the team is friends. We have a great locker room environment, so it's been good with these guys.”
Pidsadny is also grateful to his parents for taking him to the rink all these years and showing up to every game to cheer him on.
“Thank you. I couldn't ask for better parents. They go to every game. My dad loves it. My mom loves it. They would skip anything to come to one of my games and it's the best.”
He’s also very appreciative of his coach, Kevin Schellenberg.
“He's awesome. He is one of the best coaches I've ever had,” he says. “He preaches positive reinforcement, and that's one thing that I've always tried to do because you know, he taught me that and he's been awesome. He's been the best.”
Coach Schellenberg says the team had a lot of character building throughout the season.
"This is a hard-working team, and as far as the character goes, you have to learn to lose before you learn to win.”
He says winning was almost easy for a while.
“And then once the going got tough and we lost a couple of tough games, they found out that you have to push past your limits to get that win in a tough situation.”
He says it’s difficult to see these grade 12s age out.
“I’ve coached some of these guys 2, 3, 4 years even, over a couple of years span here, and it's tough,” he says. “I mean, last year we had a goalie that aged out and he wanted to coach, so he was our goalie coach this year. So there's always a chance that these guys can get back in and help on the bench.”
Coach Schellenberg says that graduating doesn’t mean goodbye forever.
“We never want to say goodbye, and we'll just say see you later, see you around the rink some other time.”
With files from Carly Koop