The 99 Major Atom Lakers began their first around series against Brantford this past week. Despite great goaltending and a strong defensive effort the Lakers found themselves trailing the series 2-1. After dropping their first two games they rebounded with a gut check performance against the hard working 99ers team.
Game one was fiercely contested with Brantford jumping out to an early lead and the Lakers battling back to tie it in the third before eventually falling by a 3-2 score. Noah Kuno led the attack with a goal and an assist. Carter Collinson added a single goal while Jacob Rooke, Ashton Stockie, and Big Ben Derrough added assists. Mitchell Newson had a strong performance with some excellent fore and back checking while Evan Moorehead and Bradley Kraemer made great defensive plays. Brock Baier supplied the superb goaltending.
Game two had Brantford once again jump out to an early lead over a sleepy looking Lakers squad. Despite some questionable calls which had the team shorthanded for most of the first half of the game and despite not having their “A” game the boys entered the third down by only one goal - thanks to some outstanding goaltending from a terrific Baily Paquette. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the boys could not find the net and eventually fell 3-0 to the scrappy 99ers. Justin Beuermann was strong on the puck all night as was Ashton Stockie who showed his creativity making several nice passes in initiating the attack.
Game Three had Laker backs against the wall. Facing elimination on Brantford ice, the boys said “not tonight” and attacked from the drop of the puck. The boys took the early lead which they never relinquished on the way to a well earned 4-2 victory. A red hot Kuno again led the attack with two goals while Will Thibeault and Hunter James rounded out the scoring with convincing helpers coming from Dillon Weinheimer, Ben Derrough and Brett Denny. Rooke was terrific winning multiple draws and playing great two way hockey as did Tanner Hertel who menaced the Brantford defence all game. Kade Landry flashed his skill with some time at the forward spot in addition to strong defensive play while Denny continued his great play with another stellar performance. When Brantford did get opportunities they were shut down by Baier who made many huge saves to protect the lead.
Game Four had our young Lakers believing in themselves. Having accomplished a big stand up game in the not so distant past with London Gold and our recent win against what seemed an unstoppable Brantford team, our 99 Lakers boys decided to take the game back. And take it back they did. Scoring only 3 minutes into the first period of the game, Jacob Rooke made no mistake burying the puck behind the 99ers' netminder with assists coming from Kade Landry and Ben Derrough. By the second period action was consistently back and forth with much excitement around our own net minder. Brock continued his Tim Thomas-like acrobatics to prevent many sure goals. The second and third goals were by Tanner Hertel and Mitch Newson respectively. Will Thibeault assisted both goals while Ben Derrough added an assist to the game capper third goal which sealed the deal. The boys left the Brussels arena with great smiles and a real sense of accomplishment by forcing game five back on Brantford soil.
Game Five had the Lakers families back in their cars heading to Gretzky Town. In this pivotal game the 99 Lakers definitely had the upper hand. Coming back from a two game deficit to tie the series, Lakers had the momentum and confidence to wrap the series up. Sticking to a disciplined game plan, the Lakers continued to press Brantford with the first goal that resulted from a strong chip out of our zone supported by a forechecking Will Thibeault who then fed Tanner Hertel waiting in the slot. Again like in game four, the action was demanding at both ends with key game breaking saves from Brock Baier and the Brantford goalie. By the end of the second period the game had been tied up by a odd man Brantford rush. Showing resolve the boys stuck to their game plan and 7 minutes later they managed to go one up by a sensational drop pass by Noah Kuno to Jacob Rooke who made no mistake when it came to burying the winning goal top shelf, capping the series and with the Lakers advancing on. This game in particular demanded the most of all our players every shift and every period. When one player faltered a teammate was their to back him up and when one succeeded they all celebrated as a team! The Lakers go on to face the Hamiltion Reps in round two.