Corner Brook Regional High Titans’ Mike McWhirter, right, and Robert Gill of the Gros Morne Academy Panthers chase the puck at the Kinsmen Arena II in this photo from December 2013. — Star file photo
A broken wrist kept Michael McWhirter out of the Confederation Cup provincial high school hockey tournament last year.
Now he’s just hoping another winter storm won’t interfere with his final crack at it.
A third-year centre with the Corner Brook Regional High Titans, the 18-year-old McWhirter has been playing the game since starting as a five-year-old in the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association.
“My dad played his whole life,” McWhirter said. “I just really wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
He cites the competitiveness of the game as his main reason for sticking with it through the years. He wants the Titans to be the best team in the province, so the team’s recent stumbles have frustrated him a little.
The team began the West Coast High School Hockey League on a 4-0 run, but have dropped four of their last seven games, including a bitter 7-2 defeat at the hands of fellow Confederation Cup participant Stephenville High Spartans on Tuesday night. The loss bumped them into second place, with the 6-3-0 Gros Morne Academy Panthers jumping ahead based on winning percentage.
Chemistry is the issue, according to McWhirter — and not the high school course.
“We’re playing good sometimes, but we just really need to stick together as a team like we were earlier in the year,” he said. “When we get that back together, I think the wins will come with it.”
This isn’t the Titans team of past years, where the regular season of the west coast league was basically a formality as the stacked Corner Brook crew cruised to victory after victory.
Parity exists now, but the Titans are still clearly one of the stronger teams.
“All the other teams have talent too,” McWhirter said. “But I really think our players have a lot of talent, we just really need to come together at the end of the season.”
At the 16th annual Confederation Cup, which actually began Tuesday for east coast clubs, the Titans will face off against Tier 2 division mates Clarenville Cougars, Pearson Astros of Wesleyville and Prince of Wales Cavaliers of St. John’s, none of which the team has played so far this season. The club will aim to fare better than their quarter-final exit last February.
Though lacking much information on the opposition, McWhirter is confident in what the Titans can bring to the dance.
“I really think we can give them a run for their money,” he said. “If we play our game, I don’t think there’s any team out there that’s going to be able to stop us.”
The weather still might, of course — team coach Darren Colbourne was hoping to have word on whether the trip is a go or not by Thursday morning.
He’s just as anxious as the kids are to put a rough stretch in the west coast league behind them and focus on some new competition. As McWhirter points out, any success in St. John’s could ultimately help the Titans author a positive conclusion to their own season.
“It would definitely show us what it takes to win,” McWhirter said. “Hopefully we can take that back here to the west coast league and take it into the playoffs.”
The Spartans and Elwood High Lakers, both tied for third place with 5-5-0 records in the west coast league, will also be on the ice out east in the Tier 2 bracket.
The Lakers are in a division with the Carbonear Sentinels, Holy Spirit Falcons of Manuels and Northumberland Nighthawks of Wesleyville, N.S. The Spartans, meanwhile, will be up against the Discovery Destroyers of Bonavista, Holy Trinity Tigers of Torbay and the Mobile Monarchs.
All three squads are scheduled to be in action today, starting with the Spartans against the Monarchs at 4:45 p.m., followed by the Lakers versus the Sentinels at 7 p.m. At that same time, the Titans will tangle with the Cougars.
The round robin carries over into Friday, before playoffs begin on Saturday. Semifinals and the championship game are slated for Sunday.