Lakers shooting for extra goals in playoffs
Extra goals and healthy bodies are what the Penticton Lakers want entering the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Lakers wrapped up its regular season schedule with one-goal losses to the Princeton Posse, who they will face in round one, the Osoyoos Coyotes and Kelowna Chiefs.
Lakers coach Robert Dirk said his team played well in the three losses, but dug themselves into holes. In each of those games, the Lakers trailed 2-0, 3-0 and 2-0 after the first period.
“We can’t afford to take a period off,” said Dirk, who talked about that with his players. “For the most part we don’t have offensive strength to fight back from three or four goal deficits. Identity is defence first and tight checking.”
The Lakers allowed the fewest goals (170) in their division and had the best penalty kill in the league (48 for 383, 87 per cent).
Kale Erickson led the Lakers with 23 goals and 48 points in 47 games. He was the Lakers lone 20-goal man.
While the Coyotes face the Chiefs in the opening round, Dirk believes their matchup with the Posse (28-19-1-4) is good for them. The Lakers (25-19-1-7) won the season series 4-3-1, which included two overtime wins and an overtime loss.
“They are a big, strong, physical team,” he said, adding that the Posse plays well at home. “We’re a better skating team. That plays into our strength.”
The Lakers have also won in Princeton, which gives them confidence.
Erickson, who leads all Lakers with six goals against the Posse, said a quick start is important. A key to him is using their speed in the offensive zone.
“When we move our feet in the offensive zone, there is not a lot of teams that can keep up with us,” said Erickson.
As for their health, Dirk expects to have 20 Lakers on his roster Friday. Nine players, including goalie Jesse Gordichuk have been recovering from injuries. Dirk said success in the playoffs comes down to four things: goaltending, doing little things well and consistent, specialty teams and top players producing.
As the Lakers start the playoffs, Dirk is very excited.
“The first goal was to chance the culture and perception of the Lakers,” said Dirk, whose players decided to dye their hair blonde. “Second was to get in playoffs. We know as a team we can beat Princeton. We feel we can win.”