The Festival Inn Major Bantam Lakers split their first two games on the first day of the All-Ontario Championships, being held this week in Stratford. The boys took on the Thunder Bay Kings (Hockey Northwestern Ontario) in the morning and the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs (ALLIANCE) following the opening ceremonies at night.
The Lakers came out strong for their first game against the Kings and led the way in every offensive statistic en route to a 3-0 victory. The play was a bit sloppy at times, with both teams shaking off some nervousness throughout. The key for the Lakers in the game was their strong physical play, which was led off with captain Mac Nichol
laying a thunderous hit mere seconds into the game. Stratford natives David Dalby
, Nik McIver
and Brad McClure
also stepped up their strong physical play in front of their home crowd. Dalby and McClure also contributed on the score sheet tallying one goal apiece, with Dylan Lazarus
filling out the scoring. Brett O'Drowsky
picked up the well-earned shutout in goal.
In the nightcap, the boys came out with a better effort for most of the game, but a mental lapse at the very end of the first period proved to be the difference against the Chiefs. Following a great openening ceremonies presentation, with Goderich native and Canadian Idol Top 10 contestant Kati Durst singing the national anthem, the Lakers controlled the play for the first ten minutes of the first period but just couldn't find the back of the net. Late in the first, two quick penalties called against the home team proved costly, with Elgin-Middlesex capitalzing on both the 5 on 3 and the 5 on 4 power play situations to end the period.
In the second frame, both teams appeared to be losing some steam as the opening ceremonies had required that the boys be in full equipment over an hour before game time. This led to some sloppy play in both ends and a third Chiefs goal mid-way through the frame. The Lakers then made a goaltending change bringing in Jake Partridge
to try to give the team a spark and the boys responded, improving their play but still couldn't solve the Chief's netminder and would go into intermission down 3-0.
The third period returned to exciting end-to-end action on the fresh ice for both teams, with the Lakers once again getting several chances but nothing to show for it. The host team significantly improved their penalty killing in the third period as well, at one point killing off an entire four minute stretch to keep the game close. With just over a minute remaining, the Chiefs took a penalty so the Lakers gambled by pulling the goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage. Elgin took advantage of the open cage with an aggressive forecheck on their penalty kill, adding an empty-netter for the 4-0 win.
The Lakers return to action today (Tuesday) when they take on the Soo Thunder (Northern Ontario Hockey Association) at 4:00 pm. Stay up to date with the tournament on the official tournament website, www.bantamchampionship.ca