LANTZ – The championship final for the NSSAF Division II boy’s provincial hockey crown was just another game for Central Kings Gators head coach Michael Ouellette.
At least that’s what he told his troops before they hit the ice against the hometown HERH Tigers in front of a loudly pro-Tigers crowd on March 25 at the East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz. The rink was a full house for the contest.
“We talked a lot about the team that works the hardest being the one that would come out on top,” said Ouellette as a maze of parents, gear and players littered the Sportsplex ice.
“Our boys played a really great 45 minutes of hockey. I’m really impressed.”
The Gators scored three times in the first period to quiet the pro-HERH crowd, and never looked back picking up the 6-2 win.
Spencer Kennie scored twice, while Will Crocker, Colton Balsor, Austin Visser and Zach Forsythe each had single tallies.
Ouellette said the team’s coaching staff never put the spotlight on it being the provincial final.
“We focused on not making too big of a deal out of this hockey game,” he said. “It’s a hockey game. I didn’t need any one player to step up – we just needed everyone to work hard. That’s exactly what they did.
“I think we can put too much pressure on players at this age. The key was to balance out the pressure by just playing their best. Everyone gave their heart and souls today,” said the coach.
Captain Ben Klein agreed, who said his team did everything right.
“We just had to think of it as another game because it takes the stress off,” he said.
“We outworked them, we out battled them, we won the races.”
Sean Morrison and Nathan Gates had the Tigers markers. Both were scored on the power-play.
Bud Davies, head coach for the Tigers, said they didn’t take much stock in the 3-1 win on Saturday night.
“We knew they were going to come out strong and hungry and they did,” said Davies.
“We were ready. The boys wanted it really bad, but we just didn’t get the bounces.”
A couple of those bounces came with Central Kings ahead 2-1, and a shot was just stopped by the Gators defence while another came in in the top left side of the net from the Tigers’ Adam Hunt, who put too much on it. It went up and over the net, and he looked skyward immediately, realizing the miss.
Davies said post game he told the boys to keep their heads held high since the outcome didn’t undo the good season they’d had.
“They’re very disappointed obviously, but we have a great team and it was still a great year of hockey,” he said.
“They represented their school with class and should hold their heads high. They got a silver medal, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”