Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Thanks for the memories
In his six years with the Woodstock Navy Vets/Renegades, Brandon Schell's fondest memory is also one of his most painful.
The team's captain and top defenceman helped upset the Simcoe Storm in seven games three years ago, with Woodstock winning the first-round series on the road.
Like most players in the post-season, Schell was playing at less than 100 per cent.
"I broke my foot in Game 3 and played the rest of the series," he said. "To win that was pretty special for sure. They were the favourites big time, and we were the underdogs and we pulled off the upset."
Schell and forwards Kevin Lanni, Brent Crawford and Al MacEwan all said goodbye to junior hockey Feb. 28 when the Renegades were eliminated in six games by the Norwich Merchants.
A handful of Woodstock players showed up Tuesday at Southwood Arena for a final scrimmage before the off-season.
"A great group of guys, No. 1," said Lanni, who left Simcoe to join Woodstock three years ago. "There's not that random guy nobody likes. We all got along great on and off the ice. It would have been nice to go a little further."
Lanni's enduring moment came in a game against his former squad this season. Trailing the Storm, Lanni scored a hat trick to give Woodstock a come-from-behind victory similar to what Travis Horvath did against Norwich in Game 4 of the Niagara West semifinal last month.
"I couldn't take the smile off my face for three days," Lanni said. "It's great to have a game like that before I go out. I just wish I could have done something like that in the playoffs."
It seems like forever since Schell made the team as a 16-year-old in 2003-04.
Murray Paton was the head coach, and along with assistant Bruce Schlitt -- who took over the following year -- the duo taught Schell the ropes of junior hockey.
"They really helped me come along," Schell, who turns 22 next week, said.
In his third season, Derek Partlo made Schell the captain.
It instilled in him "leadership ability, not only representing the guys in the room but the logo on the sweater and representing Woodstock."
Schell credited assistant coach Dave McLaren for refining his defensive game and making him a better person.
"He's been a big help and a mentor," Schell said.
While Schell played for six different head coaches, Lanni had three in his time with the Renegades.
"They were respectful," he said. "They helped direct me when they'd see things. Give props to Dave McLaren, he always helped me out and pulled me aside ... it was things like that which helped me with my game."
MacEwan spent three seasons in Woodstock and was a team player, Renegades' head coach Wayne Maxner said.
"He's dedicated and never missed a practice," Maxner said. "He came to play every night. He got hurt in the playoffs but he rebounded and played well versus Norwich."
Maxner alluded to MacEwan's physical presence and ability to win key faceoffs as unheralded yet critical aspects to the team's success.
"That's the way he play(ed) every night."
Crawford joined the team in 2005 and quickly made himself known for his speed, determination and versatility.
"He brought a lot to the table," Maxner said. "He was not a highly skilled player like some in the league but he brought a work ethic and dedication to the sport.
"Anything we wanted him to do ... he'd do for us. Players like that are gifted to a degree and he is a young man who will do well in life because of the way he conducts himself on and off the ice."
The same could be said of all four players.
Crawford, 21, is a health science student at Western, Schell is a paramedic with Oxford EMS, Lanni is going to Europe for a year before attending med school, and MacEwan would like to be a police officer.