Tigers preparing to defend league and provincial title


By: Lanny Stewart


Last season was a year unlike any other for the Neepawa Tigers high school hockey team.

The Tigers, led by head coach Mike Adams, ended up winning the provincial AA crown last March as well as their second consecutive Westman High School Hockey League title.

"Last year was a really special season for us," said Adams. "It's hard not to refer back to last year. We absolutely don't want to live in the past but we find ourselves using a lot of examples from last year."

The examples that were set in 2011-2012 were impressive to say the least. The Tigers finished tied atop the Westman high school standings with 17 wins and only one defeat. The club scored a league-high 165 goals, with only 35 scored against.

This was a special team -- one that will be remembered for years to come. However, a new season is fast approaching for the Tigers and with it, come new players and new expectations.

Five members of the 2011-2012 squad have since graduated, including last year's captain Tieler Fenning-Cox, however several players have returned from a year ago.

Grant Graham and Brady Plett are both back between the pipes. Graham helped the Tigers shut out the Crocus Plainsmen 3-0 in the deciding Game 2 of the best-of-three WHSHL championship.

"They both improved over the course of last year and so far have been very sharp in practices and in pre-season games," said Adams.

On defence, the club will be led by Cody James, the lone Grade 12 player on the back end. Others returning are Jeremy Hodgins, Blair Krutkewich, Braedon Mitchell and Brendan Harris.

Up front, Adams says the team did lose some of the offensive punch from a year ago, but believes returnees such as Garret Rempel, Kyle MacDonald, Jesse Adams, Riley Kolesar and Matt Sneesby should all collectively help in the goal scoring area.

"They (aforementioned players) finished very strong last year and at times, were our best players, so we're expecting big things from them," said Adams.

He also expects Wyatt Salmon and Trent Nelson, both Grade 11 players, to play a bigger role on the club this season as well.

New players on the squad this season include forwards Shane Levandosky, Bryson Kaye, Brett McKinnon, Preston James and defenceman Hayden Kolesar.

With the WHSHL regular season expected to get underway later this month, Adams says expectations are high once again.

"We are confident, but most of the guys know first-hand, what kind of effort and commitment it takes to reach our goals and have been very focused at practices."

He says the focus is not on last year's accomplishments but rather the here and now.

"It will probably be an even bigger challenge this year as most teams in our league have us circled on their calendar and so we'll get everyone's 'A' game.

"There won't be many easy nights for us this season," he concluded.