Oakville High hockey squad off to roaring start

Tigers set their sights on Challenge Cup

By Robert Chalupny

Winning is a tradition that fans of the Oakville Senior High School varsity hockey club are accustomed to despite losing to CBC in the semifinal game of the Mid-States Hockey Club Association’s Challenge Cup last season

But the Tigers are off to a roaring 3-0 start this season, outscoring their opponents 20-4.

Oakville head coach Derek Stephens told the Call he expects his 2013-2014 squad to make another run at the Challenge Cup.

“My expectations are to be back in the same spot we were last year, competing for the Challenge Cup,” he said. “We were so close last year with CBC and and my sights are to get to the Scottrade (the final game is played at the Scottrade Center).

“That’s our expectation as a team and it’s been that way since we started the process in the summertime. That’s what I want. That’s what they want, so that’s what we expect — to be back in that spot again.”

One carryover that Stephens sees is the resilience and consistent effort that his players bring to the rink.

“This group just keeps coming at teams, no matter what the score is,” he said. “So (whether) we’re down or we’re up a couple goals, they are relentless and really buying into the team systems and concepts that we’ve put together.

“And it really shows out on the ice because they are playing together as a unit.”

Top forwards Steve Farina, Lance French, Zach Mitchell and Adam Schafer are expected to be major contributors this season, according to Stephens.

The group has eight points combined in the three games played this season.

Defensively, Oakville is somewhat young, but that’s not a hinderance at all, according to the coach.

“Our defense is overall quite young, but our anchor back there is Cameron Dulle,” Stephens said. “A lot of the guys are interchangeable, which is good, so we are pretty deep on defense.”

In hockey, the most important position on the ice is the goaltender and the Tigers have that covered, too, with Blake Chapman.

Chapman has been a very solid backup goalie to Zach Jost, who was the team’s No. 1 goalie the past few years. Jost graduated last year and Chapman is ready for the task.

“He realizes this is his year to step up and here’s his opportunity as a senior to be the starting goaltender and he’s embraced it,” Stephens said of Chapman. “He’s worked so hard in the offseason to get himself to the spot he needs to and it shows on the ice.”

Oakville started the season with three games and three wins. After a nine-day layoff, the Tigers will begin a stretch of four games in a week, starting with Marquette on Friday, Nov. 22, at the Hardee’s Ice Plex in Chesterfield.