New look Raiders hit the floor
Lacrosse: Okotoks Jr. A's open season this weekend
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am
The long wait is finally over for the Okotoks Jr. A Raiders.
Okotoks steps back onto the floor on Saturday for competitive lacrosse for the first time since the Minto Cup in August as it opens Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League action versus the St. Albert Miners.
“Our defence is looking really strong right now and our offence is coming along,” said Raiders sophomore Travis Getz. “We’re getting really close as a group. The guys are already really close as a team, I’d say even closer than last year.
“We have a really good team environment right now in the dressing room and that’s been a really big part of it so far.”
The winds of change blew through the foothills in the off-season after Okotoks produced its third Jr. A league championship in four years.
The Raiders feature a new coaching staff and will require a fresh core of players to emerge in 2013-14. There’s no way around that after the graduation of stalwarts Brett Baron, Cam Copland, Aaron Tackaberry, Kevin Pym and Kyle Burrell, to name a few.
The Raiders also lost stud goaltender Mike DeGirolamo and offensive righty Cole Sheen, both of whom return to the Sherwood Park Titans after being acquired specifically to bolster Okotoks’ prospects at the Minto Cup last season. There are new faces behind the bench familiar to lacrosse fans in first-year head coach Andrew McBride and offensive coach Dane Dobbie. The former is one of the faces of the National Lacrosse League and current captain of the Calgary Roughnecks while the latter just set a new benchmark for the Roughnecks with 51 goals in a season, tops in the NLL in 2013-14. The top sniper in the world of box lacrosse should help shore up an offence high on skill, yet short on experience at the Junior level.
“You hear guys in the dressing room talking about what an honour it is to have those guys as coaches. We have the best coaching in Alberta, in Canada even,” Getz said. “All of us have been looking up to those guys for years playing on the Roughnecks so it’s pretty cool to be on the same floor as them.”
Getz, a creative offensive lefty with a style akin to Dobbie, will be taking a few pointers from the Riggers’ triggerman.
“Our coach last year told me to watch some film on Dane because he said we’re pretty similar players,” said Getz, who registered 27 points as a rookie last year. “A player like me, a smaller guy like Dane, I can learn a lot from him.
“I’m looking forward to getting a little more playing time and to teach the younger guys the ways like they did to me last year. It will be a good year.”
Freshmen Brett McIntyre and Colton Bymak should bolster a lineup featuring co-league leading scorer in DeWinton’s Holden Cattoni, who poured in 37 goals in just 10 games last season, along with playmaking brothers Jordan and Travis Getz and gritty righty Ben Fream.
At the other end of the floor, the versatile Marshall Gibson, hard-hitting Curtis McMullen, tireless AJ Kluck, tenacious Raymond Banister and transition/defensive ace Carson McCormick lead a promising group of returnees on the back-end.
The instillation of McBride, with 12 years of NLL experience as a top-tier defender, as head of the defence corps should pay immediate dividends, McCormick said.
The opening-faceoff for the season opener is 3 p.m. on May 10 at Pason Centennial Arena.
“With a four-team league it’s pretty easy to have a rivalry with everyone,” noted McCormick, “but with the playoff series we’ve had with them (the Miners) in the past and the whole controversy last year, we always like to stick it to them.”
Following the home opener, the Raiders kick off their season series with the arch nemesis Mountaineers on May 14 at Calgary’s Stu Peppard Arena. There is no love lost between the southern franchises who’ve each produced championship seasons over the past two years through epic seven-game series.
The Raiders venture west the following weekend for three exhibition games with British Columbia opposition. Okotoks will meet the Nanaimo Timbermen, Victoria Shamrocks and Delta Islanders on the May long weekend.
Okotoks is hoping to make a return trip to the Lower Mainland in mid-August
The Junior A national championship, the Minto Cup, is held in Langley, B.C. this year. Starting this season, the champions of Alberta will have to go through the B.C champions in order to qualify for the Minto in its new two-team East versus West format.
“We’ve won three out of four, but we’re looking at the next level now, the Minto Cup,” Getz said. “We’re trying to create a dressing room environment where coming out of Alberta is great, but we’re shooting for the Minto.”
The quest for Canada Jr. A lacrosse’s holy grail begins Saturday.
For more information on the Raiders go to raiderslacrosse.ca