Few sports have an ebb and flow much like the thrill of a hockey season. There are more games than in football, which makes for a long season of ups and downs, injuries and recoveries, victories and defeats. There are fewer games than in baseball, which means that those wins are even more important in that long season. Many people who are fans of the game could make the point that a hockey game is based off of chance; a good bounce one way could spell victory in a second, or defeat in the blink of an eye. Others will say that it is the skill of the players and the resiliency of the team to rise up against the adversity of those bad bounces, one goal game losses, and losing streaks, that make the team stronger, and help them to overcome.
When the Vermont Lumberjacks Elite Team were 2-8 in their first ten games of the season, they knew that they had work to do and that the season was long, but time was of the essence to turn things around, especially with those two wins acquired in the shootout. When the Elite team then suffered a five game losing streak to reach their 15th game of the season with a record of 2-12-0, it was clear that the team knew they needed to act “yesterday.”
“It was really frustrating. I knew we had the team to win games, but we just couldn't quite pull it together. The focus was on staying positive through the tough times knowing that we would get there,” Head Coach Jim Mosso said. “The kids on my team are the youngest in the league, and we were making a lot of immature mistakes. Since then we have learned to overcome and grow, and they are getting to the point where a team of sixteen and seventeen year olds are making eighteen year old decisions on the ice. We have matured at an aggressive rate.”
Since October 30th, the Lumberjack’s Elite team is 5-2 in their last 7 games, and they are learning to play competitive hockey.
“My goal in the beginning while we were struggling was to just find some way to get a couple points out of a weekend. Now, I would say my goal is trying to win every game we go into with a mindset that we can win, and prove that we can run with the top teams in this league,” Mosso said. “The team is learning to leave their old habits behind and to trust the coach and their teammates, and to play as a unit instead of an individualized style of hockey.”
It is without a doubt the Lumberjacks have needed and benefitted from some stellar coaching, and the team is coming together with the help of role players like Kyle McDonald.
“In the beginning of the season we were one of the last teams to start training camp. It was hard for us to click early on; we had a hard schedule in the beginning of the season and it was hard for us to keep up,” McDonald said. “We are beginning to click, and we are starting to all fit into the same system and play the same style of hockey.”
Throughout this roller coaster of a season, some player acquisitions have been made to stimulate offense on the team. Australian natives Lynden Lodge and Kieran Webster have been the answer to that.
“Coming into a team that is struggling is a challenge, but it is something we look forward to. We want to help the team get on to a better record, and by doing that we are playing well,” Webster Said. “The wins are a positive for the team, and we want to build off that.”
Kieran Webster has brought the team some confidence, and he is confident that the team will have a valid shot at the championship at the end of the season.
"Now that we are playing together with the ultimate chemistry, we are really showing the top teams that we are a challenge, and we showed that in the game against the Boston Jr. Rangers after coming back from 3 nothing after 2 periods to win it in a shootout. We have stepped it up as a team and we are showing the Elite League that we have a shot at the championship."