Senior clubs teaming up
Lacrosse: Okotoks Raiders and Erratic forging new relationship
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 06:00 am
The Okotoks Sr. B Raiders are in good company this season.
The Raiders joined forces with the Okotoks Sr. C Erratic with a combined training camp, shared practices and bench boss Ian MacDonald coaching both clubs in their respective Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League divisions.
“Joining with the Sr. C’s is huge for us. It gets the whole Okotoks organization together on the same page with one coach,” said Raiders goalie Ryan Avery. “It just makes for one head pushing through and we’ve kind of replenished both organizations.”
Though not a direct affiliation, the teams are sharing resources which should help the number crunch for the Raiders as they can call up players familiar to them.
The double-duty behind the bench for MacDonald is something of a labour of love for the veteran coach.
“Two years ago they called me up and they didn’t have a coach for Sr. C and when guys I’ve coached in the past ask for help it’s tough to say no,” MacDonald said. “And for the Raiders, I coached Avery in Ontario years ago and they were in the same boat.
“It’s impossible to say no when you’ve got good people who need help.”
He inherits a Raiders club in the early stages of a rebuild on the heels of back-to-back seasons outside of the playoff picture. The early impressions are positive.
“So far what I’ve seen is they have great skill, great knowledge of the game and I think the biggest challenge is whether or not they can come together as a team,” the coach added. “It doesn’t matter how good you are individually unless you can put it together as a team for 60 minutes and finish games, you’re not going to be successful.”
To ameliorate the team cohesiveness, the Raiders’ draft strategy was one of selecting long-time friends and teammates as a means to positively recruit going forward.
It’s a model that helped get the Calgary Mountaineers to the Presidents Cup in 2013.
“For the last five years the Mounties hadn’t really been anything and the biggest thing they had was bringing Johnny Kilbride in and him drafting a bunch of buddies and keeping everyone together,” Avery said. “What that does is force everybody to come to practice, it holds everyone accountable and there aren’t those little cliques.
“We worked on it at last year’s draft, built on that this year and this is probably the closest room we’ve had, even when we went to the Presidents Cup, this is probably a closer group of guys.”
Okotoks selected a trio of Jr. Raiders graduates in the entry draft, including first-overall pick Cam Copland and teammates Brett Baron and Aaron Tackaberry. All three are taking a crack at Senior A ball in the Western Lacrosse Association, so their availability remains in doubt for the season.
The Raiders will benefit from the services of import Tristan Calvé from Victoria as well as acquisitions Erik Hansen, Casey McIntyre and Mark Oscienny.
“My impressions with this team, they said this is a lot of rebuilding, but I feel this team they’ve got a good offence, good defence and at the same time it’s a high level of intensity,” Calvé said. “Once I came here I didn’t know anybody and they just brought me in, it’s like one giant family and they’re all good guys, all hard working and they treat you like a good friend right off the bat.”
The regular season gets underway for the Raiders with a pair of weekend road dates. They tango with the Slash in Spruce Grove on Saturday and lock horns with The St. Albert Miners on Sunday.
“It’s going to be really important to have that momentum,” Calvé said. “Win-or-lose, as long as you have a good game just to have that momentum, the high intensity for the first game shows it out for the rest of the season. It’s important that we come out hard.”
Following a three-game road trip, the Raiders open their home slate at Pason Centennial Arena on May 23 versus the rival Calgary Mountaineers. Opening face-off is 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Erratic look to build off its appearance in last year’s league finals when they open their 2014 regular season on the road on May 2 versus the Airdrie Mohawks. The Erratic’s home opener is May 13th versus the Calgary Irish (9 p.m. Pason Centennial Arena).
For more information on both clubs go to rockymountainlax.com