Cedric Lesieur, an alum of the Castlegar Rebels, had a great first season in the American Collegiate Hockey League with the Liberty University Flames. Liberty University Flames images
Cedric Lesieur didn’t shy away from joining the Castlegar Rebels two years ago.
In fact, he embraced it. When he got the call from Rebels general manager-head coach Carter Duffin after being traded to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League club from Nanaimo in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, Duffin told him the Rebels were headed in a rebuild phase. Lesieur says he believed Duffin knew that usually isn’t an ideal situation for players in their final junior season.
“A lot of 20-year-olds want to win on their way out,” says Lesieur, who completed his first season with the Liberty University Flames in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). “With the conversation we had, he saw that I wasn’t just interested in winning. I was interested in growing as a player.”
Lesieur knew joining the Rebels would be a great learning experience. That playing there would help him raise his game to reach that next level.
“Getting there was exactly what I thought it was going to be,” says Lesieur, who won six of his 25 games – posted a .894 save percentage with a 3.90 goals against average. “Going through those tougher losing stretches really helped me. I think we all believe that near the end of the season, we were a much better team than at the start. My time in Castlegar really just helped me grow and improve my game in other parts than just winning. It helped solidify that foundation that if you get all the little things right, then winning comes with it.”
Lesieur believes going through that is what helped him post a 15-1 record with the Flames in his freshman season. He had a 1.90 goals against average with a .923 save percentage. Lesieur made the all-rookie team and was named the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL) Tournament MVP. His freshman season came with a lot of change. It’s a different game from junior and he spent the first half adapting while battling two netminding teammates for crease time.
“The last half was kind of establishing myself in the lineup and making an impression and laying down the foundation for the next three years,” says Lesieur, who shared the net with Tyler Myers. “A lot of growth in the first year and figuring things out.”
Heading into the season, the coaching staff told Lesieur and the other goalies they would have to battle for starts. In addition to being part of a goalie competition for playing time, Lesieur faced older opponents, who were more physical, a bit faster and possessed higher hockey IQ’s. Lesieur says he had to adjust to stay a step ahead.
He credited his strong play to feeling comfortable, which allowed him to excel in bigger games.
“When the games start to get more important, I think they saw that and were able to play me in those more important games,” he says. “I had a really great team in front of me that made it really easy for me. Everything kind of fell into place. I was finally able to play how I know Iam able to play.”
As happy as Lesieur was with his performance last season, when reflecting, he knows there are games he could have performed better.
“As good as the stats were this year, I think there were a couple of games where maybe I wasn’t as consistent against weaker teams,” he says. “Going forward that is going to be something that I adjust to and I am able to get better at.”
Lesieur has his sights set on helping the Flames win their first national championship. If the ACHA is able to have a season, the six-foot, 180 pound goalie believes they have a contending team. That belief comes from their returning players and great additions.
When asked about his one season in the KIJHL, Lesieur says he loved it.
“The league itself is just amazing,” he says. “You look at the pipeline that it is, guys that have played in the KIJHL who are playing junior A, college hockey and there are a lot that are playing pro. The whole set up is really geared towards advancing players.”
Lesieur is grateful to the Rebels organization, especially president Mike Johnstone and Duffin. Of the places he played junior, Castlegar was the most well organized. His parents have become great friends with his billet family and they go on vacations together.
“I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me,” he says. “For the work put in to make the junior experience for players the best it can be.”