Whitfield eager to play for Wickenheiser Cup championship
By: Warren Mayes
Being the underdog in the Wickenheiser Cup championship game does not bother coach Jim Campbell or his Whitfield Warriors.
No. 7-seed Whitfield (19-8-1) will battle top-seeded Lutheran South (19-8-1) in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 7).
“This was the goal all along right,” Campbell said. “It’ll be a great game. I knew we had a really good team. To get this far, it takes luck, too. Not only does everything have to fall in place like playing well and staying healthy, you need a little more. We were pretty lucky this year.”
Whitfield has one Wickenheiser Cup title. It came in 2008 when John Londoff Jr. was the coach. Last year, Whitfield won the Founder’s Cup crown so the Warriors have the ability to close out a postseason.
The Mid-States High School Hockey championships will be televised live on FOX Sports Midwest Plus. After Lutheran South takes on Whitfield for the Wickenheiser Cup, CBC faces SLUH for the Challenge Cup championship at 8 p.m.
Scott Warmann will call the play-by-play alongside former St. Louis Blues forward and FOX Sports Midwest studio analyst Tony Twist. Andy Strickland of truehockey.com and KFNS will serve as rinkside reporter.
Whitfield is battled tested. The Warriors won game two of its semifinal series against Francis Howell Central 5-4. Ryan McInnis, the son of Al McInnis, scored a hat trick in the victory.
However, the Spartans won the opener 3-2. That mean a mini-game would decided who advanced to the championship game.
Whitfield won the decisive mini-game 1-0 at the Hardee’s Ice Plex to advance. Warriors captain Hunt Lucas scored the decisive goal.
“That tough playoff series helped us no doubt,” Campbell said. “It taught us not to give up and to prepare for everything. The playoffs can be tricky. There’s pressure in every game. I think it gave us good practice for the championship game.
“We are right where we want to be. We get a chance to play for the championship.”
Campbell praised Francis Howell Central.
“They were as tough as we thought,” Campbell said. “They a very good team. They are well coached. They won the first game. We were able to come back. We didn’t get down. We just went to work.”
When Lucas scored, the Warriors celebrated.
“The kids went nuts,” Campbell said. “I felt really good for them. They have worked hard all season. They have practiced hard all season. They get a reward for that hard work now.”
That hard work will be needed.
During the regular season, Lutheran South defeated Whitfield in both meetings. The Lancers scored wins of 5-4 and 10-2 over the Warriors.
“They beat us no doubt,” Campbell said. “It was tough to go home and it was hard to sleep after that 10-2 loss. But really, those games don’t matter know. It’s a one-game playoff and the winner gets it all.
“I know this. We won’t be outworked in this game. We’ll work as hard as we can. This is what we’ve been working for all season is to play for the championship. We’re there but we’re not satisfied. We want to show our best in this big game.”
In a way, Campbell said those losses may give his Warriors motivation in the title tilt. They want to show they belong.
“I think a little chip on the shoulder will be good for us,” Campbell said. “They’re ready. It’s a new challenge. We know we’ll have a lot of fans at the game. Whitfield has sold a lot of tickets for this game.
“Everybody around the schools is buzzing about the game. I think it gives us confidence. These kids are all good kids and they’re good teammates. They treat each other really well in and out of the lockerroom.”