As a veteran who has been through the grind before, Jordie Lawson plays a major role for the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs as they look to return to the Telus Cup midget AAA hockey championship.
He doesn’t mind that at all.
“My role is to work hard and lead by example,” he said as the Chiefs prepare to host the Okanagan Rockets in a best-of-three Pacific Cup playoff this weekend at the Arena.
“Last year I learned a lot from the guys coming back and it’s up to myself and the other veterans, to keep everyone calm and keep their emotions in check. We have to let everyone know it’s just a game and we can’t get overly emotional. Just go out and work hard every game.”
Lawson realizes there’s a lot on the line as they hope to get a chance to win a third straight national title.
“There is some pressure to go back, but we can’t let that bother us. It’s only a game and we have to have fun playing it.”
Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn, who captured his fifth straight Alberta title, leans heavily on Lawson.
“He’s a strong player and one of the kids, who returned to continue the culture. He plays a tonne of minutes, plays in all situations and we double shift him a lot. He’s a real work horse for us.”
On the other hand Lawson says the team looks at Quinn to be the true leader.
“Doug is real good at keeping us prepared,” he said. “He knows anything can happen and brings up the fact they were down by five goals (in the 2012 Telus Cup final) and still came back.
He lets us know what can happen. We try to use what he taught us and just go play.”
While the six-foot-one 185-pound Lawson takes a regular shift, plays on the penalty kill and power play, he doesn’t look at himself as a pure goal scorer.
“I’m not the most skilled guy, but I get in front of the net and whack in pucks when they’re available and try to make the passes,” he explained.
Lawson finished the regular season with 12 goals and 20 assists in 34 games. He had a goal and 10 helpers in 11 playoffs games.
That goal was one of the biggest in the final against Lloydminster. He notched the winning goal in overtime in the third game of the best-of-five series, which was tied at 1-1.
“I just went to the net and was able to get the rebound,” he explained.
There are a lot of similarities between last year’s championship team and this year’s squad, although Lawson feels this year’s team is more skilled.
“Last year we had a team that worked hard, hit and tried to set the tempo,” he said. “This year we still work hard, but we’re a younger team with several first round draft picks, who can make the plays. Last year we were muckers.”
Lawson knows the team has to be prepared for the Rockets.
“They are a very skilled team, fast and a bit smaller. They don’t use their body a lot, but they move the puck. We have to play our game and set the tempo.”
“I watched a little video on them and they’re skilled and have one line which will probably be the best line we see this year. They have a strong power play with depth. But we’re not going to change the way we play either. We want to put a lot of pressure on their defence with our forecheck, play good defence and hopefully get our power play going.”
Lawson knows defence will be important.
“That’s our strength and create offence off that,” he said.
Lawson, a native of Rimbey, played minor hockey in his home town prior to joining the minor midget AAA IROC Chiefs two years ago during their provincial championship season.
Last August he attended the Victoria Royals Western Hockey League training camp after he was listed.
“I thought I had a good camp, but they said they wanted me to return home and develop a bit more,” he said. “They want me to go back next year and said I had a good chance.”
The Pacific Cup begins Friday at 5 p.m. with the second game Saturday at 7 p.m. If a third game is necessary it’s Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The winner goes to the Telus Cup, April 21-27 in Moose Jaw, Sask.