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The expectation is clear for the Western Red Wings entering the 2019 Don Johnson Memorial Cup.
“A lot of players are really hungry to win one,” said Red Wings head coach Nathan DesRoches. “Our owner (Robert Arsenault) made it very clear from the start that our expectation this year is to win a Don Johnson Cup.”
The Island Junior Hockey League-champion Red Wings will be making their third straight appearance at the Atlantic junior B hockey championship after losing in the semifinals in 2017 and 2018.
The Red Wings will open play in the five-team regional championship tournament against a familiar foe – arch-rival and host Kensington Vipers – at Credit Union Centre in Kensington on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Red Wings defeated the Vipers 4-1 in the best-of-seven Island final.
“The boys are excited, we are excited and not too often you get a second chance at winning a championship,” said Vipers head coach Wade Waddell. “We weren’t really happy with how the season ended.
“We are happy to have another crack at it. We don’t think we showed our best in the final.”
DesRoches acknowledged the Red Wings expect to see a “totally different” Vipers’ team than they faced in the final series.
“They were missing some guys and it’s a new season,” said DesRoches. “We are flipping the script totally on the regular season and playoffs, and viewing this as a new ball game.”
Waddell is anticipating having “all hands on deck” for the opener after the Vipers were missing key players to injuries in the IJHL playoffs.
“We have lots of bodies around and they are battling for ice time now,” said Waddell. “Before, in the final, two of the games I had eight forwards dressed.
“There was one game, I think, we only had 13 skaters dressed. Now we have a full complement of players available and we will have guys in the stands pushing for ice time.”
Waddell said the Vipers want to get back to playing how they were in the regular season and the opening round of the playoffs, when they defeated the Sherwood-Parkdale Metros in five games.
“For ourselves, we just want to get back playing the way we have, minus the last series,” said Waddell. “I thought we had a really strong physical series against Sherwood, and that’s our bread and butter.
“We want to wear teams down win the 4-3, 3-2 games. When we get into shootouts with teams, we usually end up on the wrong side of it.”
DesRoches added the Red Wings are looking to draw on recent experiences at the Don Johnson Memorial Cup.
“We are definitely looking forward to it,” said DesRoches. “At the same time, it’s a tournament and if you don’t show up for one day that could be the end of your tournament.
“It will boil down to who is playing good at the right time!”