The unsung heroes of hockey

Veterans helped carry an injury-plagued Gaels to the postseason

Jonthathon Lawrance (22), Scott Kenway (11) and Brock Ouellet (27), teammates of three years found chemistry instantly.
Jonthathon Lawrance (22), Scott Kenway (11) and Brock Ouellet (27), teammates of three years found chemistry instantly.

At the start of the season the men’s hockey team looked like a group headlined by newcomers.

Just a year before, first-year forwards Payton Liske, Jordan Mirwaldt and Joey Derochie exploded into the OUA with big offensive numbers. Liske and Mirwaldt were leading OUA rookies with 40 points in 28 games, while Derochie was sixth potting 28 points in 26 games.

The 2010-2011 rookies showed promise as well. Leading this year’s incoming class were Alexi Pianosi, an offensive-defenceman coming off a 50-point season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and Jordan Soquila, a forward with 45-points in the British Columbia Hockey League.

Lost in this influx of flashy players were several key veterans. Three players in particular had fallen under the radar: Jonathon Lawrance, Scott Kenway and Brock Ouellet.

Fourth-year captain Lawrance was one of only two older players to break the 20-point mark the previous season, as he quietly continued averaging over twenty points a season.

Third-year forward Kenway was second in scoring for the Gaels in his rookie year, but a sophomore slump in which he only scored three goals hurt his confidence and his visibility.

Finally there was Ouellet, a third-year role player, who had been cut by the University of Ottawa program before coming to Queen’s and had never collected more than seven points in a season.

The trio was penciled in as the Gaels’ third line as the season opened in October. They were to be the shutdown line; their job wasn’t to score but to stop the other team’s top line. It would be the young-guns on the top two lines that would put the pucks in the net; or at least that was the plan.

Kenway said the group saw this as a chance to prove themselves.

“We took it as a challenge at the start of the year seeing that we were put as the third line,” he said. “We thought we could contribute more than just a checking role.”

An opportunity for more responsibility came in a hurry as injuries on the team mounted. Less than a month into the season three key forwards were missing games. The team lost third-year David Chubb to a long-term injury three games into the season. Payton Liske missed his first game on Oct. 23 and Jordan Mirwaldt was quick to follow him on Nov. 6. With the loss of their first line, the Gaels hit a six-game losing skid in November and the high hopes from the beginning of the season began to dim.

As the Gaels lost their primary threats, Lawrance, Ouellet and Kenway were finding the back of the net. 10 games into the season the line already had 14 goals to their name. The pucks were going in, particularly for Ouellet and Kenway, who had six and five goals respectively over that span. The production kept coming and head coach Brett Gibson was forced to expand the role of his third line.

Ouellet said the line’s chemistry peaked early.

“Playing with Jonny Lawrance and Kenway has been great,” he said. “We just kind of gelled early on the season. We work together well as line on the cycle. When you play with two skilled guys like that, offence is going to come eventually. We learned eachother’s tendencies.”

The line saw little decline in their production as each player finished with a career year in points. Lawrance matched career highs in goals and points finishing with 10 and 25 respectively. Kenway finished with 10 goals and 10 assists to break his career highs for goals and points. Ouellet handily broke his own career bests in every category finishing with eight goals and 11 assists good for 19 points.

For each player the season’s success came for different reasons. Lawrance’s consistency helped cement the line together.

“He’s been the same every year. He’s never going to be a huge, huge scorer but probably a point a game,” Gibson said. “He’s so good defensively. It’s a cliché but if you have good defence the offence will come. If I described him he’d be the poor man’s Ryan Kesler; he doesn’t skate as well but he plays well in every zone of the game.”

Lawrance’s maturity and leadership earned him the captain’s ‘C’ by his second year at Queen’s. Gibson said that Lawrance’s leadership is the backbone of the team.

“The minute Jon stepped in the room I knew he was going to be a captain. He is quiet but when he speaks people listen,” he said. “[Lawrance] is the face of our program. It’s not Mirwaldt, it’s not Liske. Where Jon goes, our team goes.”

Unlike Lawrance, Kenway needed to reestablish his game after a poor second year. The pressures of a strong rookie season caught up to him.

“He thought the second year was going to come easy. But when you lead a team in scoring one year, people are going to know who you are and give you more attention. It wasn’t there, he was doing things uncharacteristic, he just hit the reset button,” Gibson said. “[This year] he came in a determined Scott Kenway.”

The most improved player by far was Brock Ouellet. Gibson said that when he first started recruiting Ouellet it wasn’t clear that he would even earn a place on the roster, but his character impressed the coach.

“Once I met him, I knew right away that he cared more than anyone I had ever recruited,” he said.

Gibson’s decision to hang on to Ouellet paid big dividends. His success came from a new found self-belief.

“Off the ice he has charisma and confidence but on the ice it was different,” Gibson said. “When you get cut from a team like Ottawa University it gets you thinking ‘am I that good?’ He skates at a pro level, his shot is real heavy, Brock got off to a good start. It was big for him.”

Brock also brought a physicality that was uncharacteristic of his line mates.

“He’s our most physical player. I wish I could have three more Brock Ouellets on our team. We are not an overly physical team, but Brock is a prototypical power forward,” Gibson said.

The line’s individual successes brought the team to a 14-11-3 record and a fifth seed playoff berth. The 31 points for the team is fourth most of all time for the Gaels. In spite of all of the team’s injuries, the crew of Lawrance, Kenway and Ouellet worked, and the team found a way.

Unfortunately the story hasn’t ended on the happiest of notes. On Friday against Ryerson Rams, Kenway tore his MCL and will miss the entirety of the playoffs. Ouellet is still struggling with his injury and is currently day-to-day hoping to keep playing in the postseason.

“These guys carried us a long way this season. They started the year as my third line but they ended up being my first line,” Gibson said. “I’ve always said this league is about veteran players. Players need time to figure things out and the performance from these guys confirmed that.”

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