Good goaltending has been the one constant for the Penticton Lakers.
While the Lakers have won just six of 21 games in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, coach Robert Dirk is very happy with his netminding.
Niall McGregor has four wins in 12 games, while Stephen Yesavage has two wins in four. Yesavage also has the team’s best save percentage at .923 while Joel Wilson is at .911 in six games and McGregor is at .906.
“He’s been pretty good,” said Dirk of Wilson. “Look at his stats (3.01 goals-against average). We have scored a total of four goals for him in six games. He’s giving us an opportunity to win hockey. We get zero or one goal.”
Dirk insists that goaltending isn’t a problem for his team, which has a 3.10 goals against average, which is third best in their division. When asked why he was using three goalies, Dirk said it was his “choosing.”
“It’s actually nobody’s business,” he responded with a laugh on the reason. “At times all three of them have shown they can be a No. 1. At times they have shown they can be No. 3. They need to stop the ones they need to stop and stop a couple of the ones they are not supposed to.”
Dirk wants to see one of them take the goaltending reigns. He feels for his goalies because the only thing they can control is stopping the puck.
“They can’t score goals,” he said.
Offence has been a problem for the Lakers, who in the last five games have scored just seven goals. The Lakers have six players injured. Paulsen Lautard, Lucas Kwasny and Joey DiCaire may return this weekend. Kwasny, who was recently acquired and has two points in four games, suffered a lower body injury last Saturday against Fernie in a 4-0 loss and didn’t dress on Sunday against the Sicamous Eagles. The Lakers lost to the Eagles 3-1 with eight forwards. Dirk said he players competed and played hard.
“I thought we out-played them, just didn’t finish,” said Dirk, whose team outshot the Eagles 38-35.
He’s surprised by the lack of offense.
“I thought we had more talent offensively than last year,” he said. “Again that’s on paper, paper means nothing on the ice. Guys have had opportunities.”
Against the Eagles, the Lakers had a goal waved off near the end of the second as the official couldn’t see that goalie Jack Surgenor didn’t have complete control of the puck and it crossed the line.
“The referee decides he was going to blow the whistle, that’s why he waved it off,” said Dirk. “That is our luck right now. ‘I was going to blow it.’ That’s the excuse that I got. It’s just frustrating. He wasn’t properly positioned.”
As the offensive struggles mystify Dirk, he said he would rather deal with it now than during the second half and in the playoffs. To help with the offence, Dirk also acquired five-foot-nine, 160-pound forward Kevin Warwick from the Creston Valley Thunder Cats. In 17 games, he has four goals and seven points.
“He’s another smaller player, but tenacious,” said Dirk. “He has some puck skills. With more ice time he will help us offensively.”
Warwick will get his first chance to prove himself on Friday when the Lakers travel to Princeton to take on the Posse. On Saturday, the Lakers host the Kelowna Chiefs in the community rink of the South Okanagan Events Centre.