Heavyweight field at nationals for Okotoks
Lacrosse: Minto Cup features familiar look to 2011 tournament
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:00 am
The Okotoks Jr. Raiders might just get a sense of déjà vu when they hit the Queens Park Arena floor at the 2013 Minto Cup.
For the second time in three years the Raiders will be vying for national supremacy against the B.C. champion Coquitlam Adanacs and Ontario kings Whitby Warriors, as was the case at the 2011 Minto Cup in Okotoks, as well as the New Westminster Salmonbellies, the other B.C. finalists.
Whitby, winners of the 2011 Minto, boasts a youthful lineup under the guidance of head coach Derek Keenan.
“The real story is we have 11 new players on our team and to get where we’re at right now is quite an accomplishment,” Keenan said. “You go into a season like that with so many new players you’re a little bit uncertain where you’ll be at the end of it all.”
The Warriors aren’t completely void of experience with eight 21-year-olds on their roster and a number of veterans of Whitby’s national championship, including 2011 Minto MVP Curtis Knight, top scorers Reilly O’Connor and Dan Lintner and physical presence Emerson Clark.
“It’s a good mixture of that leadership and the new guys are all buy-in guys,” Keenan said.
Whitby edged the top-seeded Six Nations Arrows, forecasted as a strong Minto Cup hopeful at the beginning of the year, in a terrific seven-game series to win the Ontario title.
“I’ve been around the game a long time and it was one of the best Ontario finals ever, if not the best,” Keenan said. “At the end of the series we scored an equal amount of goals as them and in a seven-game series you don’t see that too often. It could have gone either way.
“We’re definitely battle-hardened.”
Likewise for both British Columbia representatives.
Coquitlam and New Westminster both qualified for the Minto Cup as British Columbia league finalists, a fact that did little to dampen the intensity of another provincial championship series going the distance.
The Adanacs edged the Salmonbellies in Game 5 of the finals by a 15-11 score to continue a dynastic run of five straight provincial championships.
“With the Adanacs there’s a lot of tradition in B.C. lacrosse with regards to doing well,” said Coquitlam head coach Neil Doddridge. “We had three goals, one was to win the league, one was to win the playoffs and the third was to obviously win the Minto.”
The Adanacs will be without the services of Wesley Berg, labeled by his coach as the best offensive player in the country, due to a broken bone in his right foot sustained in the B.C. finals.
However, there is considerable depth on Coquitlam’s roster highlighted by captain Tyler Garrison, snipers Chase McIntyre, Reid Reinholdt and Matt Delmonico as well as playoff MVP and six-foot-eight, 270-pound swingman Steven Neufeld.
Since winning the 2010 Minto Cup, the Adanacs have twice been bridesmaids at the national dance, losing to Whitby in 2011 and dropping a 9-4 final to the Orangeville Northmen last year.
“Anything less than a Minto Cup championship is a disappointment,” Doddridge said. “We’re a different team than the 2011 team, we’re not a high-powered offence like they were.
“We’re transition, top-defence, good goaltending. I’d say that’s our mantra.”
For New Westminster, who will house the Minto at its venue, this marks its first appearance at the national tournament since 2010.
New Westminster finished second to the Adanacs in both the regular season and playoffs and brings an explosive offence to the floor, featuring the likes of league leaders Cody Nass, Josh Byrne and Eli McLaughlin as well as goaltender Frankie Scigliano, a member of the Calgary Roughnecks.
The Salmonbellies have won the Minto Cup eight times, highlighted by a run of five out of six championships from 1908-1913. New Westminster’s last national gold came in 1994.