January 09, 2013 - After a dominating 2011-2012 season that ended in the quarterfinals, the Oakville Senior High School hockey team is poised to return to the Savvis Center to compete for Mid-States Hockey Association's ultimate prize — the Challenge Cup.
With a 5-1 victory over Lafayette (8-5) Friday, the Tigers (12-5) notched their seventh consecutive win, which includes victories over such powerhouse clubs as Lindbergh, De Smet and Kirkwood.
Oakville head coach Derek Stephens told the Call he credits part of the club's winning streak to good team leadership.
"We've won the last seven games in a row and I think that's a testament to we've got really good leadership, and the guys are wanting to play for each other. I think that's huge," he said.
Steve Farina, who scored the game-winning goal, found the back of the net twice. Also scoring for the Tigers were Andrew Kovacich, Brendan Coon and Troy Korte.
Lafayette's Justin Garlik plotted his team's only goal, spoiling the shutout for goaltender Blake Chapman.
Unselfishness, commitment and consistency are some of the other factors driving the Tigers' current run, according to Stephens.
"It's playing together as a team, getting these guys on the same page, getting them to buy into the system that we play and really come together as a team and not play as individuals," he said. "I stress that so much because with championship teams, championships are not won by a couple people. They are won by an entire team.
"I think we've started to get more consistent. We've started to gel more as a team. Any given night, different guys are going to get it done for us and I think if we can find a way to keep that momentum going and do that, we will find ourselves in a good spot come playoff time."
As far as playoffs, Oakville has the bulk of last season's playoff club, with the exception of a couple top scorers, but that's not a concern for Stephens.
"Some of the younger guys have stepped up and that's part of it," he said. "But seniors are always going to graduate and now it's somebody else's turn."
But, as it is with all hockey teams, stopping goals is just as or more important than scoring them.
The Tigers appear to have that piece covered as well. Zachary Jost, who boasts a record of 7-2-1, and Blake Chapman, with a record of 5-3, have identical .914 save percentages.
"Zach (Jost) is definitely our number one," Stephens said. "But Blake (Chapman) has played a crucial role for us this year. He always does. He's real steady back there. I've got two goaltenders that I feel confident with."
The Tigers were set to take on Marquette (3-11) Monday — after the Call went to press.