Future is the motivator for the Lakers to play hard

Playing hard with passion and pride helped the Penticton Lakers win their 11th game in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

Lakers coach Robert Dirk said when his team plays like that, they can “compete with anybody in the league.”

Eliminated from the playoffs, the fifth-place Lakers defeated the third-place Osoyoos Coyotes 4-2 on Wednesday night. The lakers played aggressive and hard on the puck. The Coyotes couldn’t solve Lakers goalie Niall McGregor until midway through the third period. McGregor finished with 26 saves.

The Lakers opened the scoring on a goal by Cam Rout five minutes into the second period. Garrett  Kucher tied the game at one on the power play. All the goals, except for one, were scored by special teams.

Lakers captain Reilly O’Connor put the Lakers back ahead 2-1 after taking a pass from Joey DiCaire. Philip Cameron made it 3-1 as he fired a shot past Joseph MacConnell from tight in the crease. Coyote Alex Grupe scored shorthanded on a breakaway with 10 seconds remaining.

“It was a pretty big win for us,” said O’Connor. “We have been losing a lot lately (six-game skid snapped). I thought the guys worked hard tonight and they deserved the win.”

O’Connor said that Dirk entered the dressing room and told his players they had to win on Wednesday. He wants them to win their remaining schedule.

“It’s been a very long and frustrating year,” said Dirk. “Guys still have things to play for. Come spring time, guys are going to go to BCHL camps.”

If they are successful in camp, Dirk knows he will get calls from other coaches asking about his players to help them make their decision.

“Really, it’s about next year,” said O’Connor on what motivates them the rest of the season. “If anybody is out there in the stands or anything watching, you can’t be slacking. You have to keep up with it and you have to keep working hard.”

One set of eyes scouting the game was Salmon Arm SilverBacks general manager Troy Mick.

O’Connor said he felt he and his teammates skated well, got the puck in deep.

“We initiated more. Taking checks,” said O’Connor, who finished with two points. “We played solid defence all game.”

The Lakers final home game of the season is Feb.12 when they host the Princeton Posse. They close out the regular season in Revelstoke against the Grizzlies Feb. 17.


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