Bantam Lacoka girls are going to have one amazing story to tell their kids and even grand kids after playing seven periods of hockey to win provincial gold of the 2015/2016 season.
Approximately 136 minutes of hockey were played with the Lacoka team taking on the Lloydminster Blazers in Hinton Sunday, March 20. Lacoka played a strong undefeated weekend during the provincials tournament that eventually had them face off against the Blazers.
Coach Tim Falkiner had two words for the experience: “Freaking awesome!”
The seven periods of intense hockey finals action was a blur of songs, fan support and organizers scrambling to find food for both teams so they had energy to make it through the games. Falkiner said going into provincials he overheard the Blazers considered themselves a shoe-in to win. This helped motivate the team.
Indeed, Lacoka played the Blazers in the round robin and were down for much of that game but eventually defeated the Blazers 6-3 the day before. This win came after losing to the same team at a recent hockey tournament.
“It was good. As usual we were down 2-0,” said Falkiner of the end of the first period.
Despite being down Falkiner said players were not worried. The entire season has been a battle of being down in the first, tying in the second and winning in the third. At this finals game, however, that didn’t happen.
Lacoka’s 3-2 final win was anything but easy
Shots on goal for and against were virtually the same at 66-64 for Lacoka and with about three and a half minutes left in the seventh period the win came. The game went so long that fans jokingly called it the seventh inning. Alberta Hockey said it may be one of the longest finals games seen in many years.
Hearing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ before the start of each over time period helped drive the team’s passion to win. This song has been played over the years by the Lacoka team and hearing it boosted both fans and players’ spirits. A video before the seventh period started showed Falkiner leading his team through the song and they appeared ready to make a win happen.
Assistant captain Jaymee Klinger said players focused on keeping their legs moving and not giving up. “Everyone was so tired after that first (semi finals) game in the morning.”
She added there were a couple of close calls but the team trusted their goalie, Heather Schellenberg, who also earned MVP of the game.
Falkiner said each over time period was a mix of shot attempts, shots saved and back and forth action. Falkiner affectionately calls the girls turtles and it has become a nickname of the team.
What kept the team going was a promise Falkiner had made that if they won provincials he would shave his hair off. He intends to follow through with that promise at the Lacombe Minor Hockey awards night on April 11.
By the time the seventh period rolled around, players were in it to win it. Falkiner praised referees for calling the penalties if a scoring chance was affected but still allowing regular play to happen naturally. He said a penalty against the Blazers put Lacoka in an ideal position to capitalize and score with about four minutes left in the seventh. “We looked at the clock and thought, ‘right now.’”
Ivy Woolf scored the winning goal and the fans erupted. The bench emptied and Woolf was so ecstatic she couldn’t explain her joy at winning to Falkiner for some minutes.
“You couldn’t hear yourself think it was so loud,” said Klinger fondly.
“The Lacoka parents and grandparents went crazy. The Hinton group that was there was almost as big or bigger than the Lacoka group, and they went crazy,” said Falkiner.
Hinton is a community without a female hockey league and organizers were hoping to drive interest in a program. Lacoka’s performance may have done that. For Klinger the experience was “unforgettable.”
The first game of league finals was played in Leduc, March 22 with the second game in the series being played on March 24.