By Ankur Kumar
(BRAMPTON, ON) – The Lancers have put 27 games behind them, but the real season began last night in St Catherine’s. It was the first time the Badgers and the Lancers met in the postseason since 1988; a best-of-three division semi-finals the Lancers won two games to one.
The Lancers’ 9-6 win over Brock last Saturday ended things on a high note. Despite the unusual six goals against by Parker Van Buskirk, the Lancers equalled the task and trumped the Badgers with nine of their own. The Lancers managed to win their eighth consecutive regular season contest against the Badgers. You may remember the fifth of November in 2011 when the streak against the Badgers began with a 4-1 win.
This has been a statement season for the Blue Collar Boys.
To be shelved away from the initial CIS Top 10 rankings, announced in October, fuelled the Lancers to defy naysayers in several ways. Out of the gate, the Lancers won 11 straight games. The teamwork was proven when the Lancers maintained first place of the OUA West and the entire OUA conference all season long, matching their best regular season wins total of 22, set back in the 1997-98 season.
Beyond the accomplishment as a team, the individual successes have been sound to the team’s success.
Spencer Pommells led the OUA conference, and the entire Canadian Interuniversity Sport, with 50 points.
Freshman Dylan Denomme previewed what kind of offensive charge he will take when several of this year’s perennial forwards graduate for other opportunities. His 13 goals and 18 assists generated 31 points, second in team scoring to Pommells. Coaches had big expectations of the all-time leading scorer for the Lasalle Vipers.
“They’ve been patient with me so far and it’s a big part in my personal successful season,” said Denomme. “The older guys have helped.”
Variables to Denomme’s success can be looked seen in his teammates. With sophomore Eric Noel and team captain Drew Palmer, the trio were known as the Viper Line, alluding to their past with the Junior B Lasalle Vipers and current reunion on the top line.
“Drew [Palmer] battles every night and he makes up for his size. I want to help the older guys with any intensity and I can’t wait,” explained Denomme.
The enthusiasm is high after the team bounced back with four straight wins to close the regular season. Last year the Lancers were ready for the playoffs, but this year they are ready to win the Queen’s Cup.
Through the first 27 games, the Lancers have won with blowouts such as 10-3 over the Varsity Blues, but also narrowly escaped with nail biting wins like 1-0 shutouts over the Western Mustangs and York Lions.
“We can win in a lot of different ways,” said last season’s Queen’s Cup MVP Parker Van Buskirk. “We’re able to do whatever it takes.”
Playoffs are a time when goaltenders shine.
After his MVP performance last season, in the OUA playoffs, the focus has narrowed in on Van Buskirk. He is aware of the challenge looking right back at him. With the pressure of repeating as Queen’s Cup champions, Van Buskirk has embraced the task ahead.
“I am excited. It’s not a burden. It’s an opportunity and I’ve stepped up at the right times.”
Can Van Buskirk do it again?
He has held the Lancers in close contests against the Badgers. During a tight game, such as the 2-1 win against Brock, or a 9-6 win amidst a flurry of goals, Van Buskirk has lived up to several scenarios. The reigning MVP finished in top spot of the OUA with 18 wins and had the best outing in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport with an 18-4-1 record.
Despite the loss to the Lancers, the Badgers put up six goals the night after a 7-2 thrashing of the Toronto Varsity Blues. The team can score, and perhaps it is a sign of the inspiration on their side.
The Badgers were afflicted with sad news when third-year forward Milan Doczy was diagnosed with melanoma. The Badgers organized a Do it for Doczy evening and generated donations and proceeds for his upcoming interferon treatment.
Their combined 13 goals in the final weekend of the regular season was the highest output over a two-game series than at any other point of the season. The Badgers are heating up at the right time and are driven toward potential success after dealing with adversity of their own.
“As things move forward, we learn more about Milan’s situation. It motivated everyone to do something. If we can get a lot of people doing a little bit, it adds up to a lot,” said head coach Murray Nystrom on TV Cogeco.
“The best way I can liken it to anything that I have seen before is Saku Koivu night at the Bell Centre,” said Jeremy Knight, play-by-play announcer for the Brock Badgers. “Everyone felt this connection to the guy. He’s a university student and that’s why this campaign hit close to home.”
Both teams are hopeful for an inspiring run but for different reasons. It is stories like these that underscore memorable playoff performances and the next chapter to storied seasons started last night; a 2-1 Brock win.