Only in junior hockey can you score to put your team up 5-0 late in the second period and the goal stands up as the game-winner when the final buzzer sounds.
That's what happened to Kingston Frontenacs 16-year-old rookie sensation Lawson Crouse earlier this week.
He was thankful his team held on for a 6-4 victory on the road over the rival Ottawa 67's. He was thankful to beat his buddy from back home in Mt. Brydges, Ont. (near London), Travis Konecny, who scored the 67's fourth goal on this evening.
"We sat back too much," said Crouse, who has 10 goals and 16 points in 41 games for the Frontenacs. "I didn't think my goal was going to be the game winner. It just worked out that way."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Crouse and Konecny, who played together on the Ontario team at the world under-17 challenge over the holidays, chatted after the game. But there was no boasting or rubbing it in on Crouse's part. He knows Konecny will have his day, maybe the next time.
It was a mature move. But then again you grow up swiftly when you move away from home at such a young age.
Crouse is one of the top prospects for the 2015 NHL entry draft that will feature the first-overall favourite, Connor McDavid.
Meanwhile, Crouse could not be in a better position this season to prepare himself for his draft year. The Frontenacs have three talented teenagers in Sam Bennett, Roland McKeown and Spencer Watson, who are projected to be first-round selections for the 2014 NHL draft in June.
NHL central scouting just happened to place Bennett in top spot in its mid-term rankings last week, and Bennett just happens to be Crouse's fellow billet at the home of Michelle and Chris Willard in Kingston.
"I've had a front row seat in terms of what it takes, how hard you have to work," Crouse said. "If I've learned one thing from Sam and Roland and Spencer it's that you can never be satisfied. You have to keep working hard. You can never be comfortable."
Nothing but comfortable
Yet, Crouse has been nothing but comfortable in his rookie season away from the rink. The Willards just happen to be the same family that billeted former Frontenacs defenceman Adam Nemeth a decade ago. Nemeth was one of Crouse's teachers at PEAC, a sport specific high school for elite athletes in the London area.
The other comfort factor for Crouse is that six months before the Frontenacs selected him fifth overall in the draft, his older sister Kyla committed to attend and play for the Queen's University women's hockey team.
"I was thrilled that the Frontenacs drafted me, knowing that Kyla was going to Queen's," Crouse said. "Before the draft I had a good feeling after talking to them that I was going to be in Kingston. But this has worked out well."
Crouse will be in the stands at the Kingston Memorial Arena to watch to his 18-year-old sister play on Friday evening against Waterloo. So will his parents, Kristen and Mike.
Then the family will watch Lawson play with the Frontenacs at home against the Belleville Bulls on Sunday.
"We both have busy schedules, but we try to attend as many of each other's games as we can," Crouse said. "It's been nice for our parents to have one spot to visit on some weekends.
"Hockey is not a cheap sport and they have made financial sacrifices for the two of us. They are our biggest supporters."
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