WINNIPEG — Selkirk Fishermen head coach and general manager Chris Poponick didn’t mince words following his team’s Game 2 loss to the host Winnipeg Satelites at the St. James Civic Centre on March 31.
“They worked harder than we did,” Poponick told The Selkirk Journal. “Bottom line: They wanted it more than we did.”
The end result was a 4-1 Selkirk loss that knotted the best-of-seven Capital Region Junior Hockey League final at a game apiece. The post-game message Poponick had for his players in the dressing room was simple.
“Work harder, want it more,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. We’ve got to want it more than they do.”
Derian Emes opened the scoring midway through the first period on a greasy goal by the side of net, and Braden Sargent made it 2-0 for the Satelites ith 11:41 to play in the second period — another garbage goal, with the puck slipping past Fishermen starting goaltender Riley Bannerman.
Emes netted his second marker of the game at the 10:17 mark of the third, and while Reece Tessier of St. Andrews replied with his third goal of the playoffs 62 seconds later, Emes completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal late.
“They got lucky goals, scrambles in front of the net and an empty-net goal,” Poponick said. “There was four ugly goals, there was no flow. They jammed it up on us and we just couldn’t get around that and it was a frustrating game to play, but we’ll regroup.”
Bannerman finished with 26 saves, while North Winnipeg netminder Kenton Brass stopped 32 shots.
The Satelites converted of their three power-play opportunities, while the Fishermen were unsuccessful on their only chance with the man advantage.
Although Selkirk finished the CRJHL regular season atop the standings with a 23-7-1-1 record, which included a 10-game winning streak in January and February, the Satelites handed the Fishermen three of their eight losses.
“We’ve had some good games against them this year … and they’re the team that beat us the most in the regular season,” Poponick said after his team needed double overtime to eliminate the upstart Lundar Falcons with a 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the semifinal round on March 26.
“The one thing about North Winnipeg is they don’t stop working. They continuously come at you and you can’t get them down,” he continued. “I think that’s the biggest thing for us is going to be how quickly we can get that momentum and keep it at the start of a game and over a game-by-game situation.”
Selkirk is also without a slew of its top players, including captain Jeremy Thomas, Sage Guimond, and Kobe Campbell, who scored six goals against the Falcons in the semifinals, inclduing the Game 7 winner.
As such, Poponick has been forced to dress six or seven affiliated players in each post-season game thus far.
Travis Spratt, racked up 17 goals and 39 points in the regular season, and has seven goals and 10 points so far in the playoffs, left Game 2 with 3:53 remaining in regulation, favouring his right shoulder.
“As much as the regular season got us to prepare for teams to play in the playoffs, we didn’t have that luxury because all of the guys we prepared to play in the playoffs aren’t there. It’s massive to have this kind of a pressure-packed situation and to have to put these young kids in those situations in the semifinals, so that if and when we come up against that in the final, they’ll be a lot more prepared to handle the game situation,” he said of the seven-game series against Lundar.
Selkirk and North Winnipeg know each other well from their time in the Keystone Junior Hockey League, but coming away with the first CRJHL title is significant for the Fishermen.
“It’s huge. It’s a brand new league, it’s a brand new start and we want to be that team,” he said. “We love being the top dog and we proved it throughout the regular season, now we just have to prove it in the playoffs and make it so everybody wants to beat the Fish.
“That’s kind of the way we like it.”
This is North Winnipeg’s first appearance in a final since 2006, while Selkirk, which lost its last KJHL final in four straight games to the Peguis Juniors three years ago, is looking to win a junior B title for the first time since its triumph over the Juniors in 2015.
Fishermen 4 Satelites 2
Josh Poponick scored once and picked up an assist, and Bannerman made 32 saves as the Fishermen took the series opener at the Selkirk Recreation Complex on March 29.
Nico Morrow-Litke scored nine minutes into the first period for Selkirk. The lead quickly grew to four as Chad King, Evan Bedard and Poponick scored in a span of 4:15 early in the second.
Brayden Clarke and Kevin Budd netted markers late in the third but it wasn’t enough for North Winnipeg.
Brass and Trend Sargent combined to make 32 stops in net for the Satelites.
Selkirk went 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Satelites could only muster one goal in nine man advantages.
Games 3 and 4 were played on April 2 and 3, respectively, but the scores from those games were not available at press time.
The Fishermen host Game 5 on April 5 at 7:30 p.m., with Game 6, if necessary, back at the Civic Centre on April 7 at 7:30 p.m.