The excitement is building in the Huron-Perth area as the All-Ontario Bantam Championships are quickly approaching. Steve Rice, sports editor for the Stratford Beacon Herald, wrote an article that appeared in Wednesday's paper:
The Huron-Perth Lakers aren't happy just participating in the Ontario Hockey Federation AAA bantam championship tournament in Stratford next week.
They intend to show they can compete with the province's six top teams of 1993 birth years at the week-long tournament which gets under way Monday at the RBC Arena in the Rotary Complex.
“We definitely have a chance to compete,” coach Shaun Peet
of Goderich said. “We’ve played five of the six teams in the rankings throughout the season and we’ve held our own in a lot of those games. “In our (Alliance playoff) series against Elgin-Middlesex, we were in it for two of those games, and played them close twice in the regular season. We tied London (Junior Knights) and we were right in a game against the Mississauga Senators until we took a major penalty and gave up three goals. “So we’ve played the truly top echelon teams and with a bounce or two our way could have come out on top. But we definitely can’t be off our game at all — we have to play our best games.”
Also participating are the Toronto Marboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, York Simcoe Express of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, Soo Thunder of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, Upper Canada Cyclones of Otawa District Minor Hockey, Thunder Bay Kings of Hockey Northwestern Ontario, and the Elgin-Middlesex Chief of Alliance Minor Hockey.
The Lakers are anxious to face the Chiefs, who swept them from the Alliance playoffs in three straight games, including a 9-1 clinching win. “Five-on-five that was a 2-1 game but they scored seven goals on special teams against us,” said Peet. “We’re looking forward to that game against them on the Monday night, looking to avenge that loss, hopefully in front of a large crowd.”
York Simcoe (52-3-5) is ranked first in the province, followed by Toronto (61-7-4) and Elgin-Middlesex (57-9-6). But Peet says the Chiefs may be th team to beat. “Elgin is looking really strong lately,” he said. “They won the Silver Stick and most of their losses were earlier in the season. They’re huge, they’re fast and they’re fairly disciplined. And they’re effective on the powerplay, obviously.”
The Lakers are 30-22-7 overall and haven’t played competitively in a month. But Peet says the team has had some intense practices at the RBC pad, which they hope to use to full advantage in the tournament. “I told the guys at the first practice that we’ve got to consider this home, our place,” said Peet. Stratford forward Brad McClure
and David Dalby
are on the Lakers’ roster, along with defenceman Nik McIver
. Defenceman Owen Drake
of Stratford is on the affiliate roster.
of Ripley led the Lakers during the regular season with 56 goals and 89 points while Derek Cowing
of Embro had 27 goals and 52 points. Goalies Brett O’Drowsky
, of St. Marys, and Jake Partridge
, of Exeter, shared the work during the season but Peet said the one who steps up in the tournament will see more action.
“The key for us is to limit mistakes at both ends,” he said. “We don’t need guys playing their best games, we just need everyone to play well, work as a unit, execute and play within their capabilities. “Our focus this year has been on developing every player and we’re confident in all of our guys in every situation.”
Steve McIver of the organizing committee said that “if they play at their best, they (the Lakers) can compete with any of these teams.” McIver said he’s “quite confident” of good crowds for the tournament, particularly for the Monday night (8 p.m.) game between the Lakers and Chiefs.
The 8 p.m. game follows opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. where Canadian Idol finalist Kati Durst of Goderich will sing the national anthem. Round-robin games continue Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with semifinal games Friday and the championship and bronze-medal games Saturday.
Peet is in his second year at the helm of a Lakers team, after guiding the 1991 group to their most successful season ever in 2006-2007. He coached at the Junior C level with the Goderich Sailors (2004-2006).
Be sure to stay up to date with the tournament at the official tournament website, www.bantamchampionship.ca