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Lakeland Hawk Bantams prep for State

April 16, 2020 by Brett LaBore

It all comes down to this. The 14U Lakeland Hawk Bantams will participate in the Division 3A WAHA State Hockey Championships this Saturday and Sunday in Rhinelander.

“(The kids are) excited, it’s something they want to prove this weekend and it’s their last opportunity to do it in youth hockey,” explained coach Charlie DePuydt. “I think they’re excited about it.”

To open the tournament, the Hawks play Black River Falls Saturday at 9:45 a.m. The Hawks will look to build on the momentum they seized when they won their regular season finale against Mosinee on Sunday, Mar. 1. 

In a doubleheader, Mosinee won the first game 6-5. In the second game, the Hawks came out on top with a 9-6 win.

“Another key win came just this past weekend, building momentum for the state tournament with a win against Mosinee at home,” coach DePuydt said. “The second game we put together a really good game. We finished at the net, we were back-checking, getting pucks to those grey areas. It was a good win, a really good win. To end your regular season with a win with a complete game is huge going into the state tournament.”

Earlier in the year they garnered strong wins against Merrill on Sunday, Nov. 3. They beat Merrill 6-1 and 9-3. That gave them some momentum right out of the gate.

“The matchup was very challenging to say the least,” coach DePuydt said. “We had two weeks under our belt and seeing a completely different team and our kids played a heck of a gamed pulled it off.”

Every player has their role. The Hawks will lean on their first line of Grayson Wagner, Jack Rubo and Mike Maillette to keep them scoring.

“They’ve been a big part of scoring this year and the expectation is they have to be able to matchup against any line first, second or third and come out of the game having been plus,” coach DePuydt said. 

Their second line of Taylor Heleniak, Cooper Johnson and Hunter Gauldoni as well as Alex Meyer is to keep the game at bay.

“Go out there against the first line and shut them down and come out of the game even — plus is better. That’s their role and I think that’s a good message to send these kids,” coach DePuydt said. “Know those roles and embrace those roles.”

The Hawks open the tournament with Black River Falls. It’s a fair matchup, with a common game against Marshfield.

“I’m liking our first draw. I think I believe they lost to Marshfield in which we’ve played Marshfield. We lost to them, but were missing some kids,” coach DePuydt said. “I do like the matchup. I think if our guys are firing right I think we should win that first game.”

In order to prepare for the game, coach DePuydt will rely on the fundamentals.

“My philosophy has always been with youth hockey is give the kids the opportunity to work on the fundamentals,” coach DePuydt said. “Skill development rather than strategies or systems. Half this group has not seen this practice structure, but the focus was on stick handling, passing, skating, learning specific footwork and deceptive footwork.”

Looking at the bottom half of the bracket, potential future games against Beaver Dam and Rhinelander present challenges.

“Beaver Dam and Rhinelander are very solid. We have our work cut out for us,” coach DePuydt said. “It won’t be a gimme state tournament.”

Lakeland opens with Black River Falls on Saturday, Mar. 7 at the Rhinelander Ice Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 9:45 a.m. 

If Lakeland wins, they play Saturday at 4:45 p.m. against the winner of the Waupaca/Tomah matchup. If Lakeland loses, they play Saturday at 3 p.m.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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