Humboldt staying humble in advance of ANAVET
Though the Portage Terriers will be heading into the ANAVET Cup having to guard against the complacency of a guaranteed RBC Cup slot, it's nothing compared to their opponents.
The Humboldt Broncos, who will be hosting this year's national Jr. 'A' championship, so the Saskatchewan champions have played the entire year knowing they'll be one of the final five.
Head coach Dean Brockman, who took the Broncos to national titles in 2003 and 2008, as well as to the finals in 2009, said it was a unique situation trying to get players prepared for a season with part of the results predetermined.
"(Our biggest challenge) was trying to overcome the fact that we're going to be there in the end, no matter what," said Brockman. "That's probably been our biggest challenge.
"Obviously, there's more pressure on a team that's hosting the event."
However, he said the players responded well, as they came out and did what they try to do every year.
"There hasn't been any huge obstacle because, obviously, you prepare to win the league every year," said Brockman. "It just happens to be that we're hosting.
"We continue to stress the importance of how important it is not to go through the back door to get into the RBC. I think we've done a good job of that so far."
This year's Bronco attack seem seems to be constructed in a fairly similar fashion to Portage, with forwards Andrew Johnston (29 goals and 81 points) and Robbie Ciolfi (28 goals and 65 points) among the league's upper echelon. From there, there are a bulk of Broncos with strong 30-plus point totals, as 10 cracked that mark in regular season play. That includes former Swan Valley Stampeder Ryan Marshall (13 goals and 38 points).
The Broncos employ 11 graduating players, so there is plenty of veteran leadership, though Brockman noted the Terriers will have more ANAVET and RBC Cup experience after experiencing both events last year.
"We really like our character and our leadership," said Brockman. "Obviously, you're going to have an older team because you are hosting."
The Broncos also enjoy the services of Matt Hrynkiw, the SJHL's top goaltender, who boasted a .921 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average in regular season play. Those numbers improved to .933 and 1.73 in the league playoffs.
The ANAVET Cup begins Friday at Humboldt's Elgar Peterson Arena.
For more, please see Tuesday's edition of the Portage Daily Graphic.