Raiders secure home-floor advantage for playoff run
Lacrosse: Junior A squad to face Titans in what should be a closely fought series
By: By Ian Tennant
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 12:58 pm
The Okotoks Jr. Raiders earned home-floor advantage for the first round of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League playoffs despite splitting two games over the weekend.
The Raiders lost a close one, 13-12, in Sherwood Park against the Titans on Saturday, their foe in the five-game series that starts this weekend. The Raiders rebounded the next day with a 15-4 drubbing of the Miners in St. Albert, clinching home-floor advantage.
The series between the Raiders and the Titans kicks off at 6 p.m., July 12, at Pason Centennial Arena. The second game will start at 3:30 p.m. on July 13, also at Pason.
The series then moves to Sherwood Park July 18 and July 19 but times and location have not yet been set,
A fifth game, if needed, will take place at 2 p.m., July 20, at Pason Centennial Arena.
Home-floor advantage can be key to kicking off a successful playoff run.
“You know the bounces a little better and how the benches change,” said Carson McCormick, captain of the Raiders.
But the bottom line is winning, regardless of where the ball is bouncing.
“No matter where we are, we are going to have to win,” acknowledged McCormick.
Raiders assistant coach David Pym agreed, noting “our goal is always to win as many games as we can throughout the year.”
Both Pym and McCormick are adamant the Raiders are coming together just at the right moment.
“Our chemistry is at a peak right now,” said McCormick. “We are tighter than we have ever been all season.”
Part of the reason for that team cohesiveness, so crucial for any playoff run, is the young Raiders’ reaction to a rough and tumble affair against the Titans on Saturday.
“They really got that fire in their eyes this past weekend,” said Pym.
A few fights and ejections left the Raiders with just 13 runners for the second half of the game, said Pym, but the team raised its intensity level and nearly pulled out a victory.
McCormick said the Raiders’ performance was one of the best of the season “in terms of emotion and engagement.”
Pym said the young Raiders, finishing with a record of 9-8-1, had a pretty remarkable season considering they lost 13 players from last year’s championship team.
“The effort the young guys have put in has paid huge dividends for us.”
While the Titans hold the regular season advantage in head-to-head contests — winning four of the six encounters but only by one goal in each game — Pym said the Okotoks squad is in a good position with the recent addition of two B.C. products — Bryce Brochu, 20, and Duston Doudelet, 21.
“Both of them produced some pretty good numbers for us over the weekend,” said the coach of Brochu and Doudelet, former members of the Langley Jr. A. Thunder.
In addition, the Raiders picked up Curtis McMullen, 21, a big Calgarian who, said Pym, should be a big help on the defensive side of the ball. Also returning from injuries are Clayton Warren, Kade McCormick, and Brett Craig.
The assistant coach said practices this week are key as the Raiders prepare to pick away at the Titans’ offence while trying to overcome “a very physical defensive team.”
“The Titans are a young team as well so they have that youthful exuberance,” said Pym.
Despite the Titans holding the regular season advantage in head-to-head contests — winning four of the six encounters but only by one goal — Pym is confident the Raiders have more than a winning chance.
“It’s a really good first round matchup for us.”
The winner will face the Calgary Mountaineers in the finals. The Mountaineers earned a first-round bye courtesy of finishing first among the four Junior A teams in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.