The Langton Lions novice rep hockey team might be peaking at the right time.
"We started off our season kind of slow," said Lions assistant coach Brian Deroo. "But the kids practiced, made adjustments, and meshed with each other.
"At the start, it was still a lot of new stuff for the first-year and second-year kids. Passing the puck, positioning. By late December it was starting to click with the kids. Better positioning and passing, something we've kind of hounded on the kids all year."
The big jump happened right after the Christmas holidays, and it's carried through all the way to the OMHA DD finals.
"The sky's the limit since then," said Deroo, recalling their Joe Callens Memorial tournament in Langton when they finished with 'bronze.'
The team later lost in the finals of a St. George tournament, taking home silver.
"With the winter we've had, quite a few of them have ice surfaces at home. So they're playing games and practices here, then they're going home and playing. We've had a couple get-togethers as a team on ice outside the arena."
After dispatching Norwich in four games, Langton advanced to the finals against an opponent expected to be Thamesford.
"We don't know the calibre of the team we're facing. But personally, I think we have a very good chance. The kids have been surprising us round after round, so why not in the finals?
"They've just got to keep doing what their doing, and that's strong goaltending, strong defence, strong backchecking, and when the opportunity arises, and that puck pops out, we have to make sure we bury our chances."
Kieran Gubesch has been anchoring the team in his first season as a goaltender.
"Nothing but positive, good things to say about him," Deroo smiled. "He's progressed a long way. Many of the kids have come a long way from where they started to where they are now. As a group, I'd say they all have. They have impressed us from Day 1 on – they've all listened to us in practices, and I think they've all taken that next step. And that's why we are where we are."
Deroo speaks from experience, not only as a coach, but as a player. It wasn't that long ago – okay it was that long ago – when he was on the ice and raising banners. Deroo remembers playing in Langton with coach Kevin Vanacker. Bryan Swain was a couple years older and Jeremy Reimer a couple years younger.
"It's exciting to kind of go through it again with our kids. We're a group that went through it together, and now our kids are doing the same thing. It's exciting," he nodded. "We were right here. Thirty years later we're in the same place with a different generation of kids. They're playing underneath our banners.
"This is a great group of kids, they've meshed together all year, and the parents are all so supportive. We appreciate that. No matter what the situation, what the circumstances, they always got our backs, and that makes our jobs a lot easier.
"The commitment these kids have, and ultimately that the parents have... other than one kid missing for vacation, we haven't had any miss practice or game. To have that level of commitment means something too. Maybe that's why they are where they are."
Thursday, March 20: Langton at Thamesford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 22: Thamesford at Langton, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 23: Langton at Thamesford, 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 26: Thamesford at Langton, 7 p.m. (Game 4 if nec)
Thursday, March 27: Langton at Thamesford, 7 p.m. (Game 5 if nec)