You'll have to excuse Lake's hockey team for a couple of embarrassing losses on its schedule this season.
After all, Coach Craig Horvath's team finished 1-9 in the Northwest Hockey Conference's Blue Division a year ago. That team, however, was loaded with freshmen and now those young players have a year under their belt, and they expected to be more competitive this season.
Through Thursday, Lake was 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 in the Blue Division, good for third place behind Fremont Ross and Anthony Wayne.
Lake has lost to both of those teams this season - by a 7-2 margin to Ross and 10-0 to AW.
"Those are the powerhouses in the division right now," Horvath admitted. "Last year we played them much tighter. This year we just didn't show up. We came in and we knew we were going to lose.
“Last year we were the only team to give them a game, when we didn't quit and refused to lose. This year, I think we thought they were too good and we didn't come prepared."
Lake has a chance to right the ship this weekend, when it takes on Start on Friday and Ross on Saturday. On Monday, Lake faces Ottawa Hills in a non-division game under the lights outdoors at Ottawa Park.
Lake shut out Ottawa Hills 2-0 earlier this season behind goalie Tony Horvarth. Take away the losses to Ross and AW, and Lake, despite not scoring more than five goals in any game this season, has more than held its own.
"The sophomores who were freshmen last year have stepped up and grown up," coach Horvath said. "There is no better way to say it. Last year they did OK, but they were freshman playing against seniors. This year, they've really grown up."
The coach said junior defenseman Louie Szilagyi has been one of the key leaders this season.
"He's not going to show up on the score sheet every night," Horvarth said, "but he takes control of the locker room and at practices. He's just one of those guys who leads. It helps that he's a cross country runner. He gets up at like five in the morning and runs six or seven miles."
Horvath also praised junior forward Gabe Pinciotti and sophomore defenseman R.J. Schultz for being team leaders.
"Pinciotti is a quiet one who does the same thing as Louie," Horvath said. "He just leads. You don't get any lip out of him, he just leads.
"Schultz is trying to find himself as a leader. Being a sophomore, he's probably not there yet. He is a team captain, but he's trying to lead and talk to people. He's a great kid on and off the ice and he is someone you want to pattern every kid after."
Duncan Vail, Pinciotti and Ricky Cox are the team's top scorers, but Horvath said he doesn't keep track of their overall numbers.
"They know how many goals they have," he said. "To me it's not important how many goals or assists you have. I put the hardest working people on the ice. The kid might go down and check somebody and take the puck away and not get a point for it, but he was important in that goal because he hit somebody.
"I'm a firm believer that if you work hard, good things will come. It doesn't matter if you're scoring goals or not. If you work hard, good things will happen."
Lake has shown itself to be a team that needs to keep the score low and keep things tight with its goaltending and defense.
"That usually keeps us in it," said Horvath, who looks for big things from freshman Mitch Mauder and senior forward Keith Miller.
Mauder's father, Troy, built a huge ice rink behind the family's home in Lake Township.
"Mitch has really come a long way, from skating behind his house and the extra ice time," Horvath said. "Keith Miller has really come a long way from last year. He skated all summer and actually played with me and some buddies of mine all summer, and it shows."
Lake's season will end Feb. 15 with no postseason play. The team is not affiliated with Lake High School, although every player resides in Lake Township.
Horvath said "it would mean a lot" if Lake can somehow nail down a Blue Division title this season.
"We want to send a message back to the community that we're not dead, we're still here and we're not going away," the coach said. "We're in our 38th year of hockey and two years away from our 40th anniversary of Lake hockey. It would be sick to see it go."