The Keith Nelson Countrywide Realty midget C Lake Cowichan Lakers capped off a hugely successful hockey season last month by adding the Mid-Island playoff banner to the league title they had previously won.
This is the second year in a row that the midget Lakers have claimed both the league and playoff championships.
“It’s good for Lake Cowichan hockey,” head coach Mark Rowbottom said. “It’s been a while since we’ve won anything like that.”
The Lakers won a pair of games in Port Alberni to claim the playoff title.
The team beat Nanaimo 6 by an astonishing 11-1 final score in the semifinal, then won the final against Oceanside 4 by a similarly dominant 12-3 tally.
“Our team this year gelled together,” Rowbottom said. “They were hungry for the puck. They played really good hockey and controlled the game. Because all the kids know each other, and they’ve played together for so many years, they managed to become a very-well oiled team.”
Including tournaments and exhibition games, the Lakers scored 270 goals and allowed just 64 over 37 games. In league play, they went 18-0-1 in, scoring 138 goals and surrendering only 33.
According to Rowbottom, a strong penalty kill was the secret to the Lakers’ success.
“When we’re on the PK, it’s like we’ve got five players out there,” he said. “Because they’ve played together through the years, even if we’re down a man, they play very defensive hockey. Once we get the get the puck, we pass it around lots. Probably 20 per cent of our goals were scored shorthanded.”
Midget C teams are awarded an extra point for getting fewer than 16 minutes in penalties in a game, something the Lake Cowichan coaches have always pushed anyway. Last year, the Lakers got the sportsmanship point in every league game, and this year they did it in 16 of 19 games.
“We played a little more aggressive hockey,” Rowbottom admitted.
The Lakers hope to extend their dominant streak into another season. Seven players are aging out of minor hockey, but Rowbottom expects to replace them with a similar number moving up from bantam.
“It’s the same as last year, and that didn’t change the dynamic,” he said. “Having only one team [at each level] helps them gel because they play together so much.”
Leaving are Cole Anderson, Nick Brown, Devin Johel, Stevie McKenzie, Nelson Wagner, Billy Robertson and Tanner Cummings. Eligible to come back next year are Evan Rowbottom, Hunter Hieta, Miles Brooks, Nathan Anderson, Shane Rees, Quinn Major, Max Baird, Aaron Croteau, Taylor Elsas and goalie Luke Wiersma.