The U18 AAA Interlake Lightning didn't finish the season the way they had hoped but they are proud of the progression the players made.
Forward Ian Buors of St. Laurent ended the season as the team's second-leading scorer with 54 points. He says there were a lot of positives to come out of the 2022-23 campaign.
"Sure, our season didn't end how we would've liked it to but I think we were quite successful. Every practice, we went to the rink with the mindset of wanting to get better and thinking we are a playoff team," Buors explains. "We trained like we were a playoff team."
The Lightning fell short of the postseason by just three points and had the opportunity to make it but the team ended up losing five of their last seven games. Despite the outcome, Buors says going through that process at the end of the season was very beneficial.
"I think it taught me to believe in ourselves. Nobody thought we were even going to be close to a playoff team. When the second half of the season started, we were down, but we climbed our way back up to a playoff spot," Buors continues. "Right until our final game, we were battling and always tried our best."
Buors is disappointed about the final result of this season but notes that's not what he'll think about when he looks back on this year of hockey.
"I'm going to remember the friendships I've made. This was a really close group. We're like a brotherhood. Before our final game, we knew it was over, so we huddled in the room and knew it was the last time we'd put on these jerseys together. We just fought for each other. It was such a tight group this year."
The Lightning now are on a ten-year playoff drought, however, this was their most competitive team of the 2020s, doubling their win total for last season. Buors gives a ton of credit to their rookie head coach Aaron Kaatz.
"When you have coaches who are invested and passionate, it rubs off on the team and creates a positive atmosphere," says Buors. "Our coaches were great. They prepared us on the ice, off the ice, and also with our workouts and sports psychology sessions. I think that's why our team was so successful."
The St. Laurent product has one more year of eligibility left with the Lightning. If he's not called up to the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the MJHL next season, Buors wants to be more vocal in the locker room in 2023-24.
"Next year, I would hope to be a leader of the team. Even if I don't get a letter, I would still like to be a good role model in the room. I'd like to keep on progressing with my skills and just get better, as a team, and as a player."