By ROBERT CHALUPNY
For the Call
The Oakville Senior High School varsity hockey team notched its 11th victory of the season in an atypical one-goal win.
The Tigers prevailed over the Lafayette Lancers 3-2 Friday night at the Hardee’s Iceplex in Chesterfield.
Despite the close result and a few penalties, Oakville head coach Derek Stephens was pleased to get the win and praised his players’ effort.
“It’s always a tough game to play when you come out to Chesterfield on a Friday night and play in our division,” he said. “It’s a division game, so every game matters when we’re talking (about) a division game. Any given night, any team can rise to the occasion.
“We weren’t as disciplined tonight as I would like, which left us shorthanded a little bit, but overall though, a pretty good game on the road.”
Oakville never trailed in the matchup, striking first when Charlie Freshman tallied his fourth score of the season on a rebound goal just 4:40 into the first period.
Then Ryan Basgall added his fourth of the season, putting the Tigers up 2-0 before Lafayette found the net with 4:07 left on the clock in the first period.
Lance French stuffed his sixth goal of the season, the eventual game-winner, midway through the second period.
“We have a set play. We dump the puck in. We trap the defense. The puck just jumped out at me and I was in the right place at the right time. I shot a high blocker and it went in,” French said.
Lafayette put the Tigers to the test though, bringing the game within one with just 2:40 left in the third period.
Helping Oakville hold on was goaltender Zachary Jost with 22 saves. He is now 10-1 on the year with a .919 save percentage.
The win, Oakville’s second over (7-6-2) Lafayette this season, propelled the Tigers to 11-3-1 overall, which is good for first place in the division. Marquette, with a record of 8-5-2, is in second place behind the Tigers.
French said confidence on the team is high and the objective is simple — win.
“Well, right now we expect to win. Anything less than that, we are disappointed in ourselves. We are contestants for the state champs,” he said. “Right now, a lot of players have confidence and we are moving the puck and working real well with each other.
“We are ready, we are going to do whatever it takes to make it as far as we can. We’ve got a really good squad this year and this is our year to win.”
For the Tigers to win the Challenge Cup, they will have to take out at least one, if not all, of the three teams they lost to this season — defending state champion Francis Howell Central, No. 1 CBC and No. 2 SLUH. But Stephens believes his squad will rise to the occasion.
“From a matchup standpoint, if we meet one of those teams in the playoffs again, we’ll be ready. We’ll be ready to go,” he said, adding the strategy for winning is simple.
“We play our systems. We stick to it. We rely on our hard work and then our talent to put pucks in the net,” Stephens said.