Seventh heaven for Jr. Raiders
Lacrosse: Okotoks wins Alberta championship, advances to Minto Cup
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 08:18 pm
Turnabout was fair play in the Alberta Junior A Lacrosse finals.
One year after the Calgary Mountaineers reigned supreme in the deciding game, the Okotoks Jr. Raiders returned the favour with a 13-3 rout in Game 7 to win the Alberta championship, Saturday at a packed Stu Peppard Arena in Calgary, and advance to the Minto Cup.
“After them beating us in seven last year, to stick it to them and give them a taste of their own medicine is really sweet,” said Raider Holden Cattoni. “We played our best game of the series.”
“We got off to a bit of a slow start getting scored on in the first 30 seconds, but responded well and played our game. We didn’t deviate, we kept moving forward the entire game.”
Responding from being singled out by the Raiders coaching staff for a lackluster series, Raider Cole Sheen was at the centre of the Okotoks attack. Sheen’s two markers along with a single from captain Brett Baron gave Okotoks a 3-1 advantage after one period.
The Raiders put a firm grip on the championship with a dominant middle frame. Kevin Pym’s breakaway goal, Aaron Tackaberry’s trademark snap shot from the left circle, Jordan Getz’s highlight reel finish off a cross-crease feed from Sheen and rookie Dylan Kinnear’s last ditch shot off the post and in combined to give the Raiders a 7-1 lead after two periods of play.
Calgary’s Jordan Prysko cut the lead to five with a powerplay marker 80 seconds into the final stanza, but two Raiders goals from Matthew Kristiansen and Ben Fream in the span of 27 seconds put any thoughts of a Mountaineers comeback to rest. Sheen completed the hat-trick, followed by markers from Dustin Reykdal, Cattoni and Cam Copland to put the finishing touches on the 10-goal win.
“We did a good film session (Friday) and broke down what we needed to do and just went out there and executed our game plan pretty much to a tee,” Sheen said. “We were coming off screens, we had to cut to the middle more and get their defence looking around.”
Raiders goalie Mike DeGirolamo was outstanding when he needed to be, allowing just two goals prior to Kanathonson Horn-David’s entry in goal in the late stages.
“They scored in the first minute, but if you let that get to you it’s just going to go downhill, you’ve got to shake it off,” DeGirolamo said. “We played more than half the game in their end. That gives our defence a rest, it gives me a rest.”
Sheen and DeGirolamo, late season acquisitions from the Sherwood Park Titans, both savoured their first Alberta championship banner.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to get this championship,” Sheen said. “Through four years I’ve had a couple chances and this is the first time I’ve been able to pull one out. It’s awesome.”
Not so for the defending champion Mountaineers.
Calgary clawed back from being down 3-1 in the series to send it the distance, but Mountaineers bench boss Rick Windl insisted fatigue was not a factor in the seventh game.
“They were the better team today,” said Windl. “The score represented that, the play represented that. They answered the bell and we didn’t. I look back at the series pretty positively. We fought hard, didn’t give up and pushed it to a final.”
“Disappointed not to win? For sure, every year I don’t (win) I will be.”
Calgary forced a seventh game with a decisive 9-5 road victory on Thursday in which top scorer Dan Taylor stole the show. The lefty attackman scored four goals and Jordan Kancsal was excellent in holding the Raiders to just five tallies.
Despite blowing two opportunities to lock up the league championship, Cattoni said the Raiders’ confidence was never truly shaken.
“We knew we had three shots at it. We wasted two,” he said. “We knew we had another shot and wanted to make the best of it.”
For Raiders head coach Dave Pym, Okotoks’ third league title in four years was particularly rewarding given the recent history between the two finalists.
The Mountaineers were part of a motion in the off-season to kick Okotoks out of the league due to a stated acrimonious relationship with the other clubs.
“It’s redemption, even after (Calgary) won last year they tried to create a vote from the other teams in the league to have us expelled from the RMLL,” said Pym. “We didn’t take it sitting down. We stood up and went eye to eye with them and fought them back hard. They came after me personally, they came after (president) Dave Fehr, and after out organization.”
“To ram it down their throat in a Game 7 the way we did is so satisfying.”
The Raiders’ celebrations will have to be short lived as they prepare to head west to for the Minto Cup, the national Junior A championships, held in New Westminster, B.C. from Aug. 17-26.
Okotoks will square off with the host New Westminster Salmonbellies, the Coquitlam Adanacs and the winner of the Ontario Jr. A finals, either the Whitby Warriors or Six Nations Arrows.
It will be Okotoks’ first appearance since hosting the tournament in 2011.