Raiders raring for finals rematch
Lacrosse: Okotoks and Calgary meet in championship series for third year in a row
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
Here we go again.
Alberta’s heavyweights of the Junior A Lacrosse community will trade blows, cross-checks and slashes with the provincial title on the line for a third consecutive year as the Okotoks Jr. Raiders’ and Calgary Mountaineers’ fierce rivalry gets its redux this weekend.
“We’re peaking at the right time, we’ve really been working them hard in practices and expecting a lot of great things out of them and they’ve risen to the occasion,” said Raiders head coach Andrew McBride. “But the Mounties are definitely the best team in the province, they’ve been the best team in the province all year and the rankings say one of the best teams in the country.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us as we’re a pretty young team and it’s going to a big stage and big situations for these kids. It should be a competitive one, but I think definitely going into it we will be the underdogs.”
Calgary cemented its status as the favourite with a dominant regular season, posting a 16-1-1 record along with a league-high 250 goals and league-low 103-goals against.
The Mountaineers further bolstered their arsenal, led by Alberta’s top sniper Dan Taylor and playmaking lefty Jordan Prysko, with the trade-deadline acquisition of former St. Albert Miner Spencer Gelinas.
“It’s going to be fast paced lacrosse both ways. They come in every year with the mentality of winning and so do we,” noted Mounties head coach Rick Windl. “I don’t expect anything less this year. They’ve made improvements and we haven’t played each other in a long time.”
“Last year we didn’t have quite as dominant a year, but we finished first last year as well and were on the outside looking in after Game 7 … We’re both sitting at zero games a piece and we need to win four before they do.”
Okotoks did some deadline dealing of its own. The Raiders shored up its offence with the additions of Bryce Brochu and Duston Doudelet from the Langley Thunder in British Columbia.
The southern foes have played to epic seven-game series during each of the last two seasons with the Mountaineers surging back to win in 2012 and the Raiders returning the favour last season in a Game 7 romp.
“If we come out and play our systems, I think we have a chance. We’re an athletic team and our goaltender has been playing pretty well,” McBride said. “I think it’s going to come down to the little things, special teams, running out of the bench, staying out of the penalty box because they have a very deadly powerplay we need to try and avoid.”
Raiders captain Carson McCormick, a veteran of the past two championship series, said the sheer will to win will determine the 2014 champion.
“It all comes down to compete,” said the skipper from High River. “If we come out and play our game and have the tenacity and the will to win, I think we’re extremely capable of that.”
Calgary took four of the six games in the season series with Okotoks handing the Mounties their only loss and tie of an otherwise flawless campaign in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.
“That rivalry is alive and strong and the last two times we’ve played Mounties in the finals it has gone seven games,” McCormick said. “It’s just the determination to win by both teams. The last two years we’ve gone three games to one and they’ve battled back, refusing to lose and we refused to lose, too.
“We can look for a long, hard series and the better team is going to advance in the end.”
Okotoks advanced to the finals by virtue of a three-game sweep of the Sherwood Park Titans while Calgary has been idle and waiting for its opponent after earning a bye through to the best-of-seven final.
“The first step is to rest and heal, lacrosse being a physical game and bumps and bruises are a part of it,” Windl said. “The negative side is we haven’t been challenged in going on three weeks almost. A big challenge coming into Game 1 is how do we respond to that layoff and the fact the Raiders were able to play games? It will be interesting the way that’s going to match-up.
“If it takes us 20 minutes, takes us 60 minutes. Do we show any rust? I hope it’s that one, but I honestly think there is going to be rust, there has to be.”
The Raiders come in as the battle tested group, though the advantage could be fleeting in nature.
“Sometimes it’s good if you’re banged up, sometimes a week or two is good to have off and you can prepare for an opponent more,” McBride said. “You might be rusty for a game or a period or two, but in a seven game series you’re going to get rid of that rust pretty quickly.”
“I know they’re going to be ready to go. They’ve got a lot of good leadership with Dan Taylor, one of the best players in Canada, the coaching staff is going to have them prepared.”
The schedule for the best-of-seven league final has yet to be released though it is expected to start this weekend at Calgary’s Stu Peppard Arena.
For more information go to raiderslacrosse.ca