Oakville hockey club falls to SLUH

By ROBERT CHALUPNY

For the Call

The Oakville Senior High School varsity hockey club’s exciting season came to a bittersweet end Saturday night when the Tigers fell one win short of a chance to play for Mid-States Hockey Challenge Cup at Scottrade Center.

St. Louis University High School defeated the Tigers 4-2 in the semifinal series finale at the Hardee’s IcePlex.

Though the Tigers fell 5-3 to SLUH in the series opener Feb. 23 and dropped Saturday’s game by two goals, the series was decided by just a goal.

SLUH scored three empty-net goals in the series, the first at the close of the first game when Oakville was trying to tie the score and then two in the finale.

Oakville Head Coach Derek Stephens pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with 1:30 left in Saturday’s game. Even though the teams were tied at two, a win was necessary to extend the series to a third mini-game.

With one minute left after the first empty-net goal, the Tigers got off a power play after a rowdy crowd of excited SLUH fans littered the ice with debris, causing SLUH to go shorthanded in the last minute of the game.

That gave Oakville a 6-on-4 to close out the game, but one of SLUH’s players iced the puck defending the zone and it went in the net to seal the deal.

“It was a good battle, a good series. It was tough to lose it,” Stephens told the Call. “As far as the season goes, I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys, the preparation and commitment they showed from the very beginning.

“They did everything I asked of them, they all believed in each other … Sometimes it doesn’t all add up, but it was a great season and hats off to SLUH. They played a great series.”

In an additional twist, while Stephens wanted nothing more than a championship for his players who worked so hard over the season and in the playoffs, he also would have enjoyed the chance to play for that championship against his former team — CBC.

“It would have been fun,” said Stephens, who graduated from CBC. “It would have been ideal.”

Stephens said he would have wanted to win, of course, but now that he is out of it, he will root for his former team.

Tiger fans should be optimistic, though, because they are poised to have another great season next year. A lot of talented athletes will return, despite the significant loss of team captain Tommy Heinzman and goaltender Zachary Jost, to name a couple.

“We have a lot of guys coming back. Of the three lines I used in the playoffs, I only lost one forward,” Stephens said. “Next year, we will have a very strong core. It’s exciting to see. We had a lot of young guys step it up in the playoffs, too.”