2013 JR A Midget Draft
Jr A Northmen capture Minto Cup
The Rayburn Construction Orangeville Junior A Northmen won the Minto Cup national championship title with a 9-4 win over Coquitlam. The Northmen were undefeated in the final tournament. Clockwise from top left, Dillon Ward was named tournament MVP. Head coach Matt Sawyer led the squad to the national championship. Rob Hellyer was named the final game MVP. Photos/BRIAN LOCKHART For the sixth time in the franchise’s history, the Rayburn Construction Orangeville Junior A Northmen have claimed the Minto Cup national lacrosse title.
The Northmen hoisted the cup on Saturday night (Aug. 25) after a 9-4 win over Coquitlam B.C. in game two of the final series of the cup tournament.
The Northmen won game one of the best of three final on Friday with a devastating 19-7 victory over the B.C. team.
Head coach Matt Sawyer led the squad on a wild ride through the regular season that included a third place finish - just two points back - followed by a successful run through the Ontario Lacrosse Association playoffs with an 11-2 record that resulted in an Ontario championship and the right to go to the national level.
“This is my fifth, (Minto Cup) - two times as a coach,” Sawyer said, “As a coach, it feels great. Every time you spend so much time with these kids you develop a bond.”
Sawyer said that going into competition the strategy is based on what you can do, not what the other team can do. “We don’t worry about our opposition, we worry about ourselves. The Ontario league is the best league in the country.”
Northmen goalie Dillon Ward was awarded the Minto Cup Most Valuable Player honours after turning out a stellar performance in the tournament.
“I knew this was my last week of Junior lacrosse,” Ward said, “I wanted to make it special. I’ll be graduating along with 13 other players. We knew we had to take it one game at a time. We knew tonight they would throw everything they had at us. We worked hard and came out victorious.”
Saturday’s final game started out slow - at least on the scoreboard not in effort - before the Northmen opened it up in the second period and capped the game in the third period.
“We were confident, not cocky,” said Orangeville captain Jeremy Noble. “We put out a great effort. We came out a little flat but we kept battling. As a testament to this team, we had a lot of injuries and the players stepped up. We are the best team in Canada.”
Noble won the Jim Bishop award for most outstanding player. Rob Hellyer was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Sawyer shrugged off the suggestion that 13 graduating players would result in a ‘re-building’ year for the team next season.
Orangeville Northmen captain Jeremy Noble hoists the Minto Cup. “Two out of the last three years we lost double-digits.” he said.
The Northmen won their first Minto Cup in 1993.
They won back to back in 1995 / 1996 and repeated again in 2008 / 2009.
Complete team effort' leads Warriors to Minto Cup
Whitby overcomes all obstacles on way to national lacrosse championship
There are countless examples of individual efforts that helped the Whitby Warriors win their first Minto Cup national championship in 12 years.
But that would be missing the point.
The fact is, as has been the case all season, the players came together as a team at the precise time necessary to get the job done.
The crowning moment came Saturday and Sunday in Okotoks, Alberta, where the Warriors mustered a pair of wins, 5-4 and 12-7, to overcome a 1-0 series deficit and defeat a Coquitlam Adanacs team that was not only defending champion, but had lost only a single game previously all season long.
With that, the Warriors claimed junior A lacrosse's greatest prize.
"When we really needed it, everybody stepped up and played unbelievable lacrosse, and I mean everybody, the whole team," said coach Derek Keenan, who had to take a red-eye flight out of Calgary shortly after the game to return to work in Oshawa Monday. "We had some injuries we had to deal with and guys stepped in and played well in roles. It was just a complete team effort and that's what it takes to win a championship."
Like much of the season, it was an up-and-down tournament for the Warriors, who lost 14-8 to Coquitlam in the round robin, had some trouble in an 8-4 semifinal win over the host Okotoks Raiders, and dropped the opener of the best-of-three final 12-9.
But as had been the case all season, the Warriors simply refused to lose when it mattered most. They had survived two gruelling rounds in the Ontario final to reach the Minto Cup, defeating Six Nations in six games of the semifinal and Orangeville in seven games of the final.
"You have your ups and downs, certainly we did, and it presents to the coaching staff sometimes some doubt, but whenever it was really on the line, our guys performed and stepped up," said Keenan. "We play two teams like Six Nations and Orangeville, it's difficult, but it also hardens you I think and prepares you for those situations that we were in this week, where we were in a sudden-death situation."
It was the last kick at the can for six key graduating players, including captain John LaFontaine, a six-foot-two defender who scored a goal and was named the most valuable player of the final game.
"You've got five years to win this trophy, it's one of the hardest ones to win," LaFontaine said by phone Monday, after a mostly sleepless night and just prior to the flight home. "Just growing up with a few of these guys, I'm so proud of every single one of them. To put it into words is tough. It was the best moment of my life."
Keenan knows first-hand how difficult it is to win a Minto Cup, having failed to do so himself despite a brilliant junior career with Oshawa from 1976 to 1982. He tried to impress that upon every single player, but especially on LaFontaine and the other graduating players, Mark Matthews, Shayne Jackson, Nick Diachenko, Adrian Sorichetti and goalie Zach Higgins.
"We felt like we had a team that could win and the message was don't let it slip because it might never happen again," Keenan said. "The guys didn't let it slip. I'm really proud of them. There were guys sticking their heads in front of shots, just doing whatever it takes to win."
Keenan could have gone up and down the roster heaping praise on his players, but he singled out a few upon request, including: Mark Cockerton, who scored three goals in the final game and a force all over the floor; Matthews, who shared the tournament lead with 30 points; LaFontaine for his leadership; Diachenko, who returned to the lineup a week after breaking his arm recently; Emerson Clark, who proved he is more than just a tough guy by scoring some key goals; Higgins, who was superb in goal the final two games; and Curtis Knight, the tournament MVP.
"I think you could have picked about four or five guys as MVP, but Curtis Knight, for the tournament as a whole, he was the best player," Keenan said of Knight, who had 10 goals and 24 points in the seven tournament games. "He brings so much every shift he's on the floor. There's never a moment taken off for him and I'm glad they recognized that."
It was the second straight Minto Cup win for Mark Matthews, who played for Coquitlam last year and led the tournament in scoring then as well ... Dan Lintner was second in scoring for the Warriors with 25 points, including nine goals ... Ryan Serville and Chad Tutton scored twice each for the Warriors in the clincher, while Lintner, Shayne Jackson, Emerson Clark, John LaFontaine and Kyle Lindsay added singles ... Robert Church, the 2010 Minto Cup MVP, returned to the Adanacs lineup for Sunday's game after missing most of the season with a broken leg suffered in June. He had two assists ... Coquitlam's Casey Jackson, who shared the tournament lead with 30 points, was held to a goal and an assist in the final game ... Alexis Buque started in goal for Game 1 of the final, before giving way to Zach Higgins, who made a number of "game-changing" saves, according to coach Derek Keenan ... Lintner scored twice in Saturday's Game 2 win, while Clark, Knight and Matthews had singles, Matthews snapping a 4-4 tie with 3:26 remaining ... The Warriors will host the Minto Cup tournament next year.
Whitby Warriors - 2011 MINTO CUP CHAMPIONS
The way the Coquitlam Adanacs were rolling through the 2011 Minto Cup, it was beginning to look like a dynasty. Consider Zack Higgins a giant slayer. In game 1 of the best of 3 finals, the Whitby Warriors started Alexis Buque in goal and the Adanacs rolled to a 12-9 victory _ thanks in part to a major penalty assessed to Buque in the second period. The Warriors came back with Higgins in Game 2 Saturday night, when he stopped 33 shots in a 5-4 victory, and the graduating senior was outstanding again Sunday in a 12-7 victory. The Warriors are 2011 Minto Cup champions, ending the Adanacs’ thoughts of repeating and giving head coach Derek Keenan his first national junior-A title as a player or coach.
The best decision Keenan made all tournament turned out to be the one to get Higgins back in goal.
“We went on a whim there,” Keenan said about starting Buque in Game 1. “They got to Higgy pretty good in the round robin (during a 14-8 win the previous Sunday). Buque played pretty good in the early game. “Zack was unbelievable the last two nights. (In Game 3), he made spectacular saves at key times. They were game-savers. If some of those go in, it’s a different outcome. He was spectacular.”
Higgins made 42 saves in Game 3, including completely blanking the powerhouse Adanacs in the third period as the Warriors outscored Coquitlam 4-0.
“There is no better way to go out,” Higgins said. “It’s been five years of working hard. We finally got it done and it’s time to leave junior now. We knew we hadn’t lost a Game 2 or 3 all year so we knew we could do it. We kept fighting through. We started get the saves, got some offence and when the ball went into the net, things got easy for us. We sealed the deal.”
Mark Cockerton scored three times in the final game, while Chad Tutton and Ryan Serville had two apiece. Dan Lintner had a goal and three helpers, while Mark Matthews contributed three assists. Matthews, who had the game-winning goal Saturday night in the 5-4 win, made a picture-perfect pass to Lintner in the third period to make it a 9-7 game and the Warriors were off and running.
Matthews is the only player in the country to currently have two straight Minto Cup wins. He won last year with the Adanacs before coming back to Ontario to join many of the friends he grew up playing alongside. So this title is a special one for him.
“This even tops last year’s win,” Matthews said. “We were hosting last year and we knew we were going. We had to do a couple of Game 6s and a Game 7 to get here, so to win the Minto is unbelievable. It was a tough year for us and to win this now is amazing.”
The momentum in the tournament switched somewhere between Friday and Saturday nights. After Game 1 Friday, the head coaches got into a heated argument that spilled out in the hallway. Both head coaches accused the other of yelling at the opposition players on the floor.
“I feel so good for the kids, the last year guys especially,” Keenan said. “We battled through a lot. It took a lot to get here and we didn’t play well until the last two nights. Finally, guys stepped up and at the right moment played extremely well against an awesome team.
In the aftermath of the victory, all the players who suited up for their final games of junior _ Matthews, Higgins and captain John LaFontaine _ gathered for a photo with members of the coaching staff. The Warriors will host next year’s Minto Cup, and they will need to have others step up for a repeat. LaFontaine just wanted to savour the moment Sunday night.
“Some of these guys started playing lacrosse together when we were really tiny guys,” said LaFontaine, who already had a year of NLL under his belt with the Edmonton Rush. “It feels amazing to win this together. This is the biggest win of my life. This is my first time in five years getting here. I knew how hard it was to get here. To squeak by is awesome.”
The Adanacs had only lost one game all season heading into Saturday night. Higgins basically took away their chances of capping an amazing year with 120 minutes of stellar lacrosse.
“We watched film on him from the Ontario final and he was solid,” said Malawsky. “We had our looks. Our kids executed 100% and have nothing to be ashamed of. They battled right to the end. “Sometimes it’s a game of inches. He made some big saves in the third that took the momentum away from us. We were playing catchup all game and that’s pretty tough in a game like that. I was confident that if we could get that one-goal lead, we would be on our way but we couldn’t get it.
“We have a lot of character on this team and we never gave up. Even the other night, it came down to one or two shots and it could have gone either way. I’m proud of our kids. We were down 4-1 early in the game and we could have went away. We battled right to the end. These kids have a lot to be proud of and I am proud of them.”