In their first game action, the Portage Collegiate Institute Trojans’ new jerseys looked a bit sharper than those wearing them.
The Trojans lost their preseason debut 4-0 to the visiting Morden Thunder at the PCU Centre on Tuesday night.
Zack Miller, Dustin Wiebe, Victor Knaub and Steven Baker all had goals for Morden.
Trojans co-coach Andrew Cherkas said the team, with over half of its roster getting its first taste of Zone 4 action on Tuesday, needs to learn to score goals.
“We weren’t very sharp around the net, but we did possess the puck in their zone for long periods of time — I’d say the majority of the time,” said Cherkas. “We’ve got to work on moving the puck around in there. Guys have got to be a little more sharp in getting to those spots where goals are scored, and we’ll be fine.”
The Trojans lost big-time scoring in the offseason as Eric Wallace and Wyatt Lavallee graduated and Stephen MacKenzie joined the Central Plains Capitals. Cherkas said he expects PCI has the firepower to put home some pucks this season, though.
“Immediately, you look at your veterans — we’ve got Brodie Blight and Cody Reeves, Tanner Wylde and A.J. Thomson. We’re hoping they can provide some punch,” said Cherkas. “Then you’ve got your Grade 10 guys coming in, too. I don’t want to say bunch of names and single out guys, but in terms of what we have for new guys, there are some guys I think can put the puck in the net.
“It’s pretty hard to replace Wyatt Lavallee and Wallace with their two-odd points a game, but if you get a bunch of guys getting 0.5 points a game consistently, that’s what we’re going to have to have here.”
The game was a tight one, though, as it was scoreless until the 11:22 mark of the second, when Miller beat starter Keaton Bachalo. Wiebe tallied early in the third, and it remained 2-0 until Knaub’s empty-netter with 93 seconds to go. Baker rounded out the scoring against rookie Justin Semchyshyn 22 seconds after that.
“The work ethic was there, the attitude was to stay positive, and right up until the empty-net goal, I thought we were right in there,” said Cherkas.
PCI captain Teegan Martin said he was keeping reactions tempered during the game.
“I didn’t expect a whole lot — we were putting a goalie in cold halfway through,” said Martin. “We don’t really have any real lines yet.
“It went better than I thought it would. It could have been worse.”
The Grade 11 student, new to the role of captain this season, said he’s never been a captain at any level before, but looks forward to the challenge that the new role will provide.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Martin. “I’m a little nervous because it’s the captain, the big ‘C’, but it was good to get this first game over with and get it done.”
Martin said he’s been talking with the one he replaced in the position — Gavin Neufeld — about what to expect, adding that Neufeld has been integral to helping him get prepared.
Cherkas said putting Martin in the position was an easy choice.
“He’s a glue guy — everyone likes him,” said Cherkas. “If you need a joke to lighten the mood, he’s got a good joke. If you need to be told to pick up your slack a little bit, he’s not afraid to do that. He possesses good skill. He’s not a selfish player.
“Everything I look for in a captain, he brings it.”
The Trojans will be in action at a tournament in Morris this weekend, beginning with a game against the Sanford Sabres on Friday night. PCI will open the Zone 4 Hockey League regular season on Oct. 30 against the W.C. Miller Aces.
Cherkas said the coaching staff will be tinkering with its combinations throughout the weekend.
“We told them not to read into our decisions too much — we’re going to juggle the lines every game, just to see who’s clicking, to see if we can find some spark,” said Cherkas. “Just getting the team together for three days on the road, we’ll probably be able to watch a couple games together, and just get the guys comfortable.”
Cherkas hopes to use this tournament and one the following weekend in Neepawa as an opportunity to acclimatize players to the league.
“We’ve got a lot of rookies this year, so (we’ll be) getting them all accustomed to the speed of the game and the size of the players,” said Cherkas. “You come into this league as a Grade 10 guy, and look at those senior Grade 12s who have played for two or three years, it’s a big adjustment physically.
“They’ll need to adjust to that quickly because the season starts in three weeks.”