Lancers hockey surges to first place in MAC Blue

By: Brad D. Bates | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 19, 2011

 Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse senior Ryan Werner and the Lancers face Warren Mott at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in a battle for first place in the MAC Blue.

Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse senior Ryan Werner and the Lancers face Warren Mott at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in a battle for first place in the MAC Blue.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

The Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse hockey team is seeing the benefits of listening to its coach’s messages.

At press time, the Lancers were 2-0-0-0 in their first season in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division — a point behind first-place Warren Mott — under first-year coach Wayne Tollon and led all MAC squads with 60 goals scored.

“It’s a lot of fun,” senior forward Patrick Mikolajcazk said of his team’s newfound success. “There’s a lot of skill on this team, but we haven’t really even seen all of it yet.”
The fact that L’Anse Creuse is winning has helped Tollon as he continues to instill a defense-first mentality on a team with a knack for finding the back of opposing nets.

“I don’t have an issue with us scoring goals, but what I do have a problem with is us giving up goals,” Tollon said.

“We beat a good Goodrich team 2-1 in overtime and lost to (Grosse Pointe Woods University) Liggett 3-2, and those were two of our best games. What I don’t like is when we get sloppy against teams we should beat and give up too many goals.”

That is where Tollon’s message of discipline comes into play.

“Discipline is big,” Mikolajcazk said. “Last year, we took a lot of stupid penalties, but now if we do that, coach makes us skate at practice.”

Mikolajcazk and his fellow forwards on the first line — seniors Trevor Spezia and Ryan Werner — have seen an increase in defensive dedication pay off more than any other members of the team.

Spezia, who had 18 goals and 17 assists as a junior, has already tallied 22 goals, and Tollon believes his best hockey is still ahead.

“We didn’t put our top line together to stop other teams’ top line; we put them together because I don’t think there’s many lines out there that can stop them,” Tollon said.

“Trevor already has 22 goals, and he could be better. You can always be better.”

As the Lancers get set for the second half of the regular season, Tollon is starting to instill some of the practices and principles he would like to see his team carry into the state playoffs.

“I’ve been letting them run and gun a lot until now,” Tollon said. “Now our defense is starting to carry the puck more. And we’re having our centers act as a third guy at the top of the defensive zone.

“That’s something they’ve never done before. They’ve all made comments, though, that they get the puck more being defensively responsible and being in the right positions. That tells me they’re learning and understanding things.”

Tollon’s focus on his centers contributing as much on defense as they do on offense was foreign to most of his players, but the team’s early success has given the players the confidence to learn and enact new schemes.

“He’s a great teacher,” Mikolajcazk said of Tollon. “We have a lot of great coaches, and they’re really good teachers, too. They get on the ice and skate with us to show us stuff, and they can do everything better than we can.”

Tollon said he would ideally like to see his team have its new defensive schemes down pat for the MAC/OAA Showcase Feb. 5 at the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester Hills and the Creuse Cup matchup with L’Anse Creuse North at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Mount Clemens Ice Arena.

“We want to be ready for the showcase because that’s going to give us a chance to play a pretty good OAA team, and the Creuse Cup because LCN is a good team, too,” Tollon said. “It’s been a pretty good season, but I expect more to come.”