Mar 25, 2011 | mthibeault | 2256 views
99 Lakers Reach New Heights in 2010/11
As the 99 Lakers entered the playoff season near the end of February 2011 there was a realization that this team was capable winning big games. This notion was reinforced by knocking out the #1 Hamilton Reps in the East. With this series win now in the team's portfolio of success stories, the 99 Lakers were convinced that they were in complete control of their destiny.
6 Days after putting Hamilton out of the playoff run the Lakers were faced with even a more formidable task. Crossing over to the West Division, our Lakers were scheduled to play the #1 team in the West and the first place overall league champions, London Jr. Knights. The Jr. Knights had only lost 2 games in league play all year and the Lakers had been responsible for one of them. The Jr. Knights were waiting patiently for our series to end after putting out Lambton Jr. Sting in 3 straight. The Jr. Knights player depth is well known. Player for player, big or small, they are very skilled and they play a relentless game.
Knowing this the 99 Lakers were prepared and confident that they had the game to compete with the #1 team in the second round of the playoffs.
The Lakers were scheduled to play in London for game 1. As predicted, London came out strong at the drop of the puck but the Lakers managed the pressure well in their own end and settled into their game nicely. London managed to get on the board at the 7-1/2 minute mark of the 1st. The Lakers managed to get plenty of chances themselves in the first but it wasn’t until late in the period, with only 46 seconds left, that a nice breakout play by Ben Derrough had AP player #20 Rhys Vollmer screaming up the left wing. Vollmer broke the London D on the outside and delivered a hard shot on net while #15 Will Thibeault buried the rebound to tie the game up heading into the 2nd. Great two way hockey had continued for much of the second period and this time London found a way to score with about a minute left. 2-1 going into the 3rd was not exactly a crisis situation for the Lakers. They were playing well and working hard all over the ice. The coaches were losing count of all the scoring chances our players were getting. We felt if we just kept up the work ethic we would be rewarded. Unfortunately the tipping point came at the 2:55 mark with London scoring their 3rd goal and adding a 4th on a power play. A score of 4-1 didn’t really encapsulate the Lakers' play. In many ways, the Lakers dominated London throughout most of the game. Heading home the team felt the game was a lot closer than the score might have indicated.
The Allman Arena was the stage for game 2. Despite London getting on the scoreboard in less than minute the Lakers found a way to respond late in the 2nd with 2 goals almost a minute apart by #19 Mitchel Deelstra and #15 Will Thibeault. Deelstra’s goal was assisted by great passing plays from #5 Stockie and #7 D-man Kade Landry. Later in the third period the Lakers continued the pressure, creating their own chances with good puck possession and pressure. Just under 9 minutes in the 3rd, the Lakers notched their 3rd goal with a heavy point shot by Landry which was redirected into the net by Thibeault. Up 3-1 the Lakers continued with their strong game but London tempered the Lakers enthusiasm with a power play goal of their own at the six minute mark. With plenty of game to finish and great end to end action every second there was no room for error. Each team was getting plenty of chances and goalies on both ends of the rink were making sure the players would have to determine the outcome of the game. Again relief came as it did a couple of times in the Hamilton series with an empty goal with only 13 seconds left on the clock. #12 Brett Denny drifted a nice shot in the heart of the empty London net. The Lakers would take this game 4-2.
On a Wednesday night, the Lakers headed back to London to the Western Fair Arena for game 3. With the series tied in this very tight match up this would prove to be a pivotal game for both teams. Each team now knew at this point that they had to play their best to win. Each team was prepared to capitalize on opportunities. Scoreless and extremely fast play with plenty of action best describes the first period of this game. This time, however, the Lakers would find the scoreboard first with a hardworking goal by #18 Jacob Rooke assisted by Rhys Vollmer and #14 Carter Collinson. Continuing the tight play at both ends made for a great game of hockey for the remainder of the second period and the better part of third until London finally found the mesh at 9:33 of the third. Goals were hard to find throughout this game but the Lakers had plenty of chances with no luck around the crease. The game ended in a tie which forced OT. London would remarkably make no mistake after a neutral zone turnover and they scored early to end the game. London would gain a valuable 2 points in game 3.
St. Mary’s Pyramid arena would host the London Jr Knights and the 99 Lakers on March 5th for game 4. Once again our boys were focused on the task at hand. We played 3 strong games of hockey with only 1 of them rewarding our efforts. Game 4 would not represent our strongest effort, however we did get our fair share of chances. Unfortunately, the London netminder kept us off the board for the entire game and London managed to find the net with 2 goals in the first and one in the second to close out the series. Both teams were commended by all coaches and parents. It was great hockey from game 1 through 4 and, although the result was not always in the Lakers' favour, our boys played hard and well for both series against #1 teams.
The 99 Lakers would finish the 2010/2011 year with a record of 39-22-9 and would become known as the hardest working team in the 99 Alliance division. In compiling that record our boys gained the well deserved respect from their peers in hockey. Hamilton, London, St. Louis, Chicago and some of the top teams in the GTHL have come to know our team. Larger centres with literally hundreds of kids to make a team from found it difficult to beat us. Every game played was winnable in our minds and that confidence was recognized and respected by our opponents.
As this team improves their game and their record year over year many more teams will get to know us and by then we will be known as the team to beat! The entire coaching staff would like to thank once again all the parents and extended families of the 99 Lakers boys for your great support throughout the entire year.
Congratulations to all the players for a great season and we look forward to seeing the entire team again in April for tryouts.