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Northern Ontario hockey team battles on after loss of coach

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The Kirkland Lake Blue Devils is a tight-knit minor hockey team that's persevered both on and off the ice.

Kirkland Lake Blue Devils U13 hockey team. Feb. 20/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

The young U13 athletes have been playing on the same team since the Timbit level, making the team their second family.

"It's something that's great about being in a small community," said Ryan Dagelman, the Blue Devils' team manager.

More importantly, they have also helped each other get through a tough time together.

At the beginning of last season, they learned their coach, Paul Lacroix, had brain cancer.

"They battled through and they had a really great successful year," Dagelman said.

"Unfortunately, Paul passed away, but he did get to see the team win their NOHA title; it was one of his goals with them and it was great that they could accomplish that for him."

Tucker Lance and Mason Crickard are players on the team.

"When he got diagnosed with cancer I was sad, but it like motivated me to keep on going so I thank him for that and I miss him," Lance said.

Tucker Lance, Kirkland Lake Blue Devils player. Feb. 20/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

"He was supportive and always pushed us to the limit, yeah, he just loved us overall," Crickard said.

The team worked hard for its beloved coach and only lost two games last year.

This year, the Blue Devils are currently in second place out of five teams in their U13A division.

Lacroix's son, Coleman, also plays on the team and he said he thinks his dad would be impressed, not only with the team's standing in the league but also with its community involvement.

Coleman Lacroix, son of late coach of Kirkland Lake Blue Devils and player on the team. Feb. 20/24 (Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)

"They were able to raise a little over $3,300 for the Terry Fox fund and they ran in the name of Paul," Dagelman said.

"Minor hockey started a food bank fundraiser for tryouts so we were able to get a bunch of food for the food bank and so the kids have really tried to give back as much as has been given to them."

Kirkland Lake Minor Hockey Association collected food for the food bank during tryouts. (Kirkland Lake Blue Devils hockey team)

Coleman said he thinks his dad would be proud of the team.

"With our new coach, Coach D'Arcy, he's been doing a great job coaching us and I think he'd be proud," he said.

The team's management said the players' ability to deal with such an emotional time with the dedication and resolve that they did was incredible and they deserve to be recognized as the Rastall Nut and Bolt Team of the Month.

Nominations for the next and final Team of the Month are open until March 15.

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