The Portage Islanders will take over Stride Place this afternoon for their home opener.
The squad started the season off with a bang last weekend as they demolished one of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League's newest teams in the Ile Des Chenes Northstars 8-0. Team manager, and forward, Derrick Brooks talks about how nice it is to kick the year off with a big win.
"It was definitely great to be back on the ice with the guys and get back into it. It was a little bit of new territory, with the new team that we were playing who has just joined our league this year. We weren't sure what to expect with a new opponent," Brooks explains. "There were times where there were definitely things we could improve on but overall, it was just good to get back on the ice. We did a good job with keeping it simple."
Ile Des Chenes is not the only new addition to the league, as the Red River Wild and St. Anne Aces have also helped turn the SEMHL into a ten-team association.
"It's a pretty exciting time for the league. Having new teams means more fans and more competition which makes the league a little bit better. We look forward to them being a part of the league for years to come."
The Islanders have a new addition this year that will be familiar to many local hockey fans, Portage's own Tyler Van Deynze. The forward spent three seasons with the Portage Terriers, where he put up 44 points in 90 games. Last year, Van Deynze helped lead the Pembina Valley Twisters to an MMJHL Championship. He found the back of the net in his first game as an Islander.
Brooks says Portage has put together some impressive regular seasons the past few years but notes the 2022-23 campaign is going to be about continuing that into the postseason.
"The next step for our group is going to be, come playoff time, to be ready to play those hard-fought games against whoever the opponent may be. The playoffs can be a whole new animal. The hockey gets harder and tighter," Brooks continues. "I think we've progressed well but we just want to take that next step and hopefully get the result this year."
With the home opener going down tonight at 3:30, Brooks says they are looking forward to seeing their fans in the stands.
"We're real excited to get back out there and play in front of our fans. Last year it was great. We had a lot of people come out to support us. We're looking forward to getting on the ice and playing in front of them again. All of the guys are pretty excited about it."
The Islanders will take on the Altona Maroons today at 3:30 at Stride Place.