It may have taken a decade, but the Leaside High School Boys Varsity Hockey team made it back to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) for the Ontario High School Hockey Championships from March 20-23 in Collingwood.
It was an exciting week, to say the least, with the team comprising mostly grade 11s and 12s with a few 10s and 9s in the mix, playing some of their best hockey of the season. The team was led by teacher manager Catherine Alexander (affectionately known as Mama) and volunteer coaches Brana Cecen and George Stevensen (see sidebar), both LHS graduates.
The Lancers skated easily to a spot in the quarter final after only one loss in the round robin against teams from as far north as Sioux Lookout. Then they took the quarter final game against Belle River 3-1, advancing to the semi-finals against host school Jean Vanier. Eddie Bush arena in Collingwood was packed with Vanier fans who had been dismissed from class for the game. The energy was high, but alas the Lancers lost in a shootout, posting a final score of 2-1.
“We were a AA team playing against AAA teams in the TDSB, and then next thing we knew, we had persevered to become the fourth best in the province,” said Catherine Alexander. “Their chemistry on the ice was unimaginable. Their behaviour both on and off the ice was classy and above reproach.” Congratulations Lancers on a great season!
Six hundred kilometres north, the girl’s hockey team from LHS was also competing at OFSAA in Timmins following a second place finish in the TDSC city finals. After an eight-hour bus ride, the girls, ranked fourth in the province, hit the ice fresh on Wednesday morning and won both of their games. Thursday proved a little more challenging with the team falling to St. David. Thankfully, their two wins were enough to advance to the quarter final versus Fort Frances. Fort Frances showed to be slightly stronger winning 2-0, which Coach Patrick Keeves felt was “an emotional loss,” but the Lancers can now look back on a very successful season. Coach Keeves who came off his parental leave at LHS to coach this season, had this to say about the team. “The OFSAA trip provided a profound learning experience, a unique opportunity to bond as a team, and was extremely fun. There was a lot to feel proud of this season.”
A few words from the boys’ coach…
Cutting class early and beating rush hour still left me with a whole two hours to think about my upcoming week in Collingwood, coaching the boys at OFSAA. As I headed north, I tried to be realistic as well as stray away from any hype or high expectations; after all, this was Provincials. I was very keen on letting the team know that this will not be as easy as our regular-season.
The first game we played immediately demonstrated the character this team brought with them. After a three-goal rally to make a third period comeback, it was evident the Lancers came to play.
With each passing game, the teamwork between the fellas and me grew thicker and our game stronger. We battled our way against better teams playing remarkable hockey all week that sent us to the bronze medal game.
This team really wowed the coaches with their resiliency and effort. Playing seven games in four days is hard (some even made trips back to Toronto to play in their GTHL games), and I credit these young men very heavily for the way they fought. Finishing fourth in the province after a shootout was certainly a tough pill to down, but I think we could have cracked top three no problem if it weren’t for some key players being out of the lineup.
OFSAA was a great conclusion and illustration of what a season this was for all of us. It was an absolute treat to lead a team that was all on the same page and wanted to listen, work, and win as a TEAM.
Brana Cecen is a graduate of LHS. He played AAA hockey in high school and is currently studying graphic design at OCADU. In his spare time, you can find him working in the kitchen at Local and volunteer coaching – for the love of the game. —V.H.