Closing Thoughts and Reflections, News, Minor PeeWee, 2007-08 (Huron-Perth Lakers AAA Minor Hockey Association)

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Closing Thoughts and Reflections
Submitted By Goetz on Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We began the year with a philosophy we felt was appropriate for the development of 11-year-old high achieving athletes. We knew that skill development was our primary goal, however we also wanted to be competitive in our contests. We knew that being a Laker involved a tremendous amount of commitment on behalf of the families that would comprise our team and thus we wanted to make it rewarding for all involved.



Our tryout drills were designed to identify athletes with a pension for hard work and a desire to win. We also considered present skill and potential for development and the willingness to take direction. Some decisions were not unanimous by the coaching staff and the democratic process was instigated.

To many the team we started the year with was not as strong as the one that had finished the previous season. We, however, felt confident that we had compiled a team that would be quite competitive with every player willing to fulfill their role. And more importantly, athletes that wanted to learn. 

Little did we realize just how far they would come.

Our formal training began the third week of August with a five-day camp that most in shape adults would not be able to complete. Our goal was to condition our bodies to the point where we would lose based on our skill not our conditioning. The days started at 8 am and concluded at 5. They comprised 4 hours of ice, 40 minutes of dry-land training, 60 minutes of basketball/soccer and 60 minutes of swimming. We also did our individual and team goal setting that week. In one week we had amassed 20 hours of ice and an additional 20 hours of activity to begin our season. 

We carried on with dry land twice a week until the time change and played a lot of pre-season hockey with the intent of being ahead of our competition when the season began. We went undefeated in exhibition play including a stunning win over London and Elgin Middlesex.

Our first tournament of the year, the “Sarnia Goldenblade” was a growth experience. We dropped a 2-1 game to Kitchener and 2-1 game to Burlington, tied Victory Honda and defeated Lambton. Two, 1 goal losses told us we had to be just a little better.

The second pre-season tournament we attended was the “London Early Bird”. Losses to Vaughn and London and wins over Brampton and North Central told us we were competitive, but not one of the elite quite yet.

We began our regular season the third week of September and ripped off a 12 game undefeated streak that took us to November 3rd, a day we would remind ourselves of the remainder of the season. We played Hamilton in Hamilton that day and the coaches could sense complacency before we ever took the ice. Having beaten Hamilton 11-3 in a prior game and not losing over the last two months the coaches sensed the team felt they could just show up to win and cautioned them of this prior to the game. The 6-2 loss that day was one of the most important games of our season as this squad went on to become extremely consistent with effort when compared to other 11 year old teams.

The squad bounced back the next day,with an 8-1 win over Lambton prior to heading to the Shanahan Tournament. 

Another lesson was to be learned at the Shanahan as the Lakers had a near perfect tournament beating Ottawa, Syracuse and Brampton and dropping a 4-3 decision to Richmond Hill. Unfortunately, the Lakers did not have enough points to advance and began to get a sense of how near perfect elite teams need to be.

The Minor Peewee Lakers squad went on a 9-2-0 run up to the Christmas break in league play and were itching at another tournament opportunity as they felt they had a championship in them.

After a brief Christmas break, the squad headed to Toronto to take part in the Don Mills International Tournament. Again the Lakers were near perfect, with wins over Don Mills, Clarington and Pittsburgh and a tie against Milwaukee. Unfortunately, the tournament counted points for periods and the Lakers would not have enough to advance, Milwaukee would go on to win that tournament.

The Lakers would close out their regular season with a terrific 22-7-3 record and an amazing 47 points. The Lakers were privileged to be a part of the strongest Eastern Division in the Alliance giving them terrific competition, but where their 47 points would be enough to win every other division in the Alliance it allowed them only third place in the '96 group, 3 points behind Division Champions Brantford and 2 points behind Waterloo.

The Minor Peewees had one last chance at a tournament championship prior to playoffs, as they would travel to the “Central Ontario Wolves Cup Classic” held in Lindsay. In both of Friday’s games the Lakers came out flying with strong wins over the Central Ontario Wolves (5-1) and the Richmond Hill Stars (6-2). Friday was made all the better by a team dinner, parents and players included, at one of the cabins at the Pigeon Lake resort where we stayed.

Saturday morning the Lakers did not post their best effort against the Peterborough Petes resulting in a 4-1 loss. Game two on Saturday the Lakers rebounded with a decent effort and a 3-2 win over the North Central Predators, enough to advance to the semi-final round.

The Lakers would face their league rival Kitchener Rangers in the semi-final in what would be one of many highlight games of the year. The end of regulation had the Lakers and the Rangers all tied up at 1-1. Five minutes of five on five overtime followed by five minutesof 4 on 4 overtime would resolve nothing. The Lakers would defeat Kitchener in a sudden death shootout going 3 skaters deep.

The Championship game would prove anti-climatic as the Lakers soundly defeated the Central Ontario Wolves 6-2 to take home the tournament championship. It was a memorable experience and a great way to enter the playoffs.

The playoffs had the top 8 teams playing down to the League Championship and the bottom four playing a round robin. The Lakers would face division rivals Waterloo Wolves in the first round and would have a tough battle ahead of them as they had a 1-1-2 record against them in the regular season.

An incredible series was to unfold, game one a 2-2 tie, game two a 4-3 win, game three a 2-1 overtime loss, game four a 4-1 loss, game five an incredible come from behind in the third 7-4 win to set the stage for game six.

Game six, undisputed highlight of the year, triple overtime win with 1.25 minutes left on the clock to advance to the final four.

The Lakers would have an incredible challenge on their hands, as they would face the London Knights in the semi-final. The Knights were the Alliance Champions the previous two years and are ranked 7th in North America.

Game one the Lakers were flying and played five minutes of overtime before taking away a 2-2 tie in London’s barn. Game two again had the Lakers playing a sound defensive game and the end of regulation had a 1-1 split on the scoreboard. With just 22 seconds left in overtime the Knights stole the game with a 2-1 win. Game three was 1-0 for the Knights with three minutes left in regulation when the Lakers got caught aggressively pressing and the Knights got an insurance marker. The Knights would score once more into an empty net to take a 3-0 win. Game four the Lakers came out strong and had several good scoring opportunities prior to London capitalizing on a breakdown in defensive zone coverage. The Lakers squad could not rebound allowing two power play goals and being defeated by London in a series that was much closer than the 7-1 in points that BladeNet would show.This Lakers squad had, however, proven to themselves that they were capable of competing with every team in the Alliance.

There were many tears in the room and the athletes were understandably inconsolable. Six months of intensely working toward a common goal concluded so abruptly that it would take many days to absorb the experience.

Helmets riddled with the 44 stars that would represent the wins this club posted over the year, twice that of the previous year.  An astonishing 71% win percentage, and finishing as one of the top 4 teams in the Alliance was a tremendous accomplishment.

The largest accomplishment however was that which is difficult to quantify. The skill development of every child on this team was incredible. The numerous hours spent on pivots, cross-overs, koivu’s, passing and shooting had resulted in tremendous development of the individual and thus great performance by the team. Learning fundamental systems and the mental discipline to adhere to those systems and perform specified roles also added to the success.

The last goal of the staff for the season was to make it a worthwhile experience for the families and athletes involved, and although the success in this facet was not 100%, it far exceeded the expectations of most and left the coaching staff with a feeling of a job well done.

Many thanks to all the team staff, you were extremely supportive and honest in your feedback and every child on this team was bettered with your involvement. Your friendship is cherished.

Many thanks to the parents, entrusting me with the development of your child this year was a privilege I did not take lightly. I hope your child’s experience was as worthwhile as mine and they were left with as many lifetime memories as I was fortunate enough to experience.

                                                                                                Todd

 

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