VND hockey insider: Captain stepped up when Deer Lakes lost its goaltender
Deer Lakes had everything in place for its return to varsity hockey following a one-year absence, except for one thing — a goaltender.
With a couple weeks to go before the start of the PIHL regular season, the Lancers' starting goaltender left the team for unspecified reasons.
That's when senior defenseman and team captain Lucas Gapsky stepped up.
“Coach (Todd Luniewski) came into the locker room and told us all what happened and asked if anyone could step up,” he said. “I said, ‘I will.' ”
Luniewski didn't mince words when talking about how important Gapsky's decision was to Deer Lakes (7-13-1), a team that now finds itself readying for the Class A playoffs.
“It was huge,” he said. “Right away, Lucas said ‘Coach, I'll play goalie,' and stepped right up. That's just the type of kid that he is.”
Gapsky, with only a single season of inline hockey as a goaltender on his resume, wasn't perfect. But he was capable and, at times, impressive. He points to a game against Serra Catholic (11-9) on Jan. 17 when he made 30 saves on 31 shots to ensure an upset for the Lancers as a highlight during his time in net..
It was also around that time that a replacement was nearly ready for action. That replacement was Jonathan Lang, a sophomore standout on the Deer Lakes inline hockey team with no experience in net.
“I didn't know if I wanted to play, but they kept asking me,” Lang said. “I started to feel like maybe I'd like it. So I gave it a chance.”
Luniewski described Lang, whom he coached in little league baseball, as a natural athlete with an impressive ability to catch onto things quickly.
It took about a month of practice and preparation for him to get his first taste of game action, but once he played, he said he was hooked. On Feb. 11, he had his best game of the season, an 18-save performance that led to a 2-1 victory over Westmont Hilltop (13-7-1).
“The defense played great,” Lang said. “In my first game, we didn't play that great of a team, so I didn't know how I stacked up. But that result definitely gave me some confidence.”
And part of the reason the defense played so well was that Gapsky was once again manning a position on the blue line and playing a well-balanced, physical game.
“Having Lucas back out of net, where he planned to play, is nice,” Luniewski said. “It happened because Jonathan progressed quickly enough; I don't want to say faster than I thought he would, because I knew he'd progress quickly. He's that type of kid. He's a tremendous competitor.”
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.