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Lafayette’s Patrick Johnson named Wickenheiser Cup MVP

Bringing home the Wickenheiser Cup are [from left] Nathanial Orf, Patrick Johnson, James Vermeersch and Shane Robinson.

Lafayette’s Patrick Johnson believes every Lancer is an MVP.

However, the 15-year-old freshman earned the Most Valuable Player honor in the recent Wickenheiser Cup championship game that ended with Lafayette scoring a 4-2 victory at Enterprise Center.

The win gave the Lancers a 19-7-2 record on the season in the Mid States Club Hockey Association.

Johnson scored a goal and added an assist helping the Lancers win their second Wickenheiser Cup championship in the program’s history.

“I did not know they did MVP, but it truly was an honor, and I was very happy to receive that,” Johnson said. “Honestly, that MVP could’ve gone to any guy on our team. Everyone played their hearts and souls out which made me ecstatic and proud of this brotherhood that we had formed over the season.”

Everyone with the program was happy for him. But for Johnson, it was about the team and not himself.

“My teammates and coaches said congratulations, but that wasn’t why I was there,” Johnson said. “I was there to win the Wickenheiser Cup with my boys and I wouldn’t have asked for another group of guys to win it with.”

There was no doubt in Lafayette coach Jim Carrico’s mind that Johnson was the correct choice to be named MVP in the championship game.

“He earned it,” Carrico said. ” He worked his tail off the entire playoff run. Patrick never complains, he just plays. He only knows one speed and that is always at 100 percent.”

Although Johnson is playing lacrosse this spring, hockey is his No. 1 sport. He’s been playing it since he was 7 years old.

“I love the sport of hockey for an unlimited amount of reasons but a few key ones are the relationships you build with teammates and coaches that will last forever,” Johnson said. “And also it is just simply the best game on planet Earth.”

Making the varsity this season was something Johnson wanted to accomplish.

Carrico, who is in his third season at the Lancers’ helm, knew he was getting a talented skater in Johnson.

“I was very aware of what Patrick brings to the game,” Carrico said. “We knew Patrick and fellow teammate freshman James Vermeersch were going to contribute right away. They give 100 percent on everything they do. It can be a drill, a practice or a game. They go top speed at whatever they are doing.”

Johnson was thrilled to make the varsity roster.

“I was very excited to join Lafayette’s program for many reasons. I have always wanted to play with older kids at my same school, so for me that was unreal,” Johnson said. “I was excited because we had a great coaching staff and I knew we had a good team.

“I did not know what to expect, but I had talked to the coaches prior to the season and we discussed what the season would look like and how we could fit in the 11 necessary games to be eligible for playoffs. “

Johnson also plays club hockey for the St. Louis AAA Blues U15 team.

Playing club hockey makes him a better player, Johnson said.

“That helps my game a lot,” Johnson said about playing for the U15 Blues. “I had coaches that stressed our team’s development and from an individual standpoint, which has really helped me improve on my game.”

Johnson settled in with the Lancers playing on the top line. Senior Colin Stewart joined him and Vermeersch.

“We knew Patrick and James were going to be on our top line from the beginning,” Carrico said. “The hard part for us was finding the third person to keep up with them and work just as hard as they do. A few games in, Colin was the right choice. Colin has AAA experience and being a senior forced Patrick and James to keep up with him which better it even better. All three complemented each other well as a line.”

Johnson said his two linemates helped him develop this season.

“It was an honor for sure playing on varsity let alone the first line, but it wasn’t all me,” Johnson said. “I had great talent on my line with James and Colin as well who pushed me to get better and improve.

“Playing on a line with these two was special because not often does two freshman kids play on a line with a senior and Colin was a great role model for both James and I. I think with Colin’s previous AAA experience helped us as well.”

Most top lines on other teams featured upperclassmen. So, Johnson had to adapt.

He did, too, Carrico said.

“Patrick plays against the other teams top players and that means players two and three years older than him. He is not afraid to go into corners or battle along the wall,” Carrico said. “He takes key faceoffs at important times as well as quarterbacking our power play. He commands respect from his teammates on how he plays the game.”

Johnson knows what he has to do on the ice.

“I like to think that I am a hard worker that likes to get the dirty work done,” Johnson said. “Get in the corners and make plays is how I like to play. I would like to improve my skating and stick handling for next season.”

During the regular season, Johnson averaged a point a game in the 11 games he played in with Lafayette to be eligible for the playoffs.

” Patrick is very coachable. He listens. He learns,” Carrico said. “He asks questions. The best part he doesn’t flaunt his talent or talk about himself. He lets his actions do all the talking for him and those actions are better than any words.

“Not to mention Patrick does not take bad penalties. He didn’t have a penalty in our playoff run.”

Getting into the quarterfinals are pool play was big for Johnson. He believed the Lancers could reach Enterprise Center and play for the Wickenheiser Crown.

The Lancers were the No. 3 seed.

“Going into the postseason, everyone on our team knew we could be a championship team it was just a matter of if we could perform on the ice and execute,” Johnson said. “There was no doubt in my mind that we could not win that championship and everyone had a winning mentality which really helped a lot.”

The Lancers swept Fort Zumwalt East in the quarterfinals. Lafayette dispatched Summit in the semifinals to meet the top-seeded Duchesne Pioneers for the championship.

Johnson and his teammates were on the threshold of achieving their goal.

“After the second game against Rockwood Summit when we advanced to the Wick finals, it took a day to set it because this was our goal from the beginning of the season and we just had one more game to go,” Johnson said. “It was surreal in the locker room after the game because everyone was so excited and it is definitely a moment I will never forget.”

Getting to skate where the Blues play was a thrill for Johnson.

“Playing at Enterprise Center was one an experience I will never forget,” Johnson said. “It was a lot of hard work paid off for us Lancers. Stepping into the rink with all the boys was amazing it was too good to be true, and it is an understatement to say it was just super fun.”

Johnson assisted on Lafayette’s first goal that gave the Lancers a 1-0 lead.

“I was in the right corner and I saw Stew (Stewart) was behind the net in a battle so I went in to help and looked and saw James in front,” Johnson said. “The puck popped out and I moved it to James and he made a great play with his foot to kick it up to his stick and put it top shelf.”

Johnson goal was an empty-netter with 13 seconds remaining.

“Duchesne was coming into the zone and my teammate pressured the guy towards me, so I poke checked the puck away and it went pretty far and then it was a foot race so I just skated my hardest and tried to hit the net,” Johnson said. “It was very exciting for all the boys and it could’ve been anyone to score that empty net goal.

“I think I played well against Duchesne, but it was 100 percent a team effort with the outcome we had. I feel I got in the dirty areas which helped our line produce.”

The win helped make Johnson and his teammates champions.

“Winning the championship was unbelievable it was a long year of hard work that had finally paid off,” Johnson said. “Every guy on our team deserved that trophy and it was a moment I will never forget and will always remember with my team.”

Next season can’t come soon enough for Johnson.

“I am looking forward to next season for many reasons,” Johnson said. “It was a great experience and I was very fortunate to do this as a freshman so from here on out I want to do my best to fulfill the guys in grades below me and try to win another title and have them experience what I was lucky enough to at 15 years of age.”

Carrico said Johnson has the potential to become an even better hockey player.

“Patrick is never satisfied with his play,” Carrico said. “He is always wanting and working to get better. He gives a 100 percent at everything he does. He will go as far as Patrick wants to go.

“He is absolutely a team leader. He leads by example and commands respect from his teammates. You wish all of your players gave the effort Patrick gives every day. He is great person. He is liked by all of his teammates and friends.”

Moreover, Carrico said Johnson is a fine young man and athlete.

“If any team had 20 Patricks, they would be very hard to beat on any given day,” Carrico said.

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