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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Sudbury Rockhounds open tournament schedule in Six Nations
by Randy Pascal

The Sudbury Rockhounds were heading right into the heart of lacrosse country as they opened their 2018 tournament schedule over the weekend.

All three of the local rep teams this summer – novice, peewee and bantam – left Friday for the Six Nations Confederacy Lacrosse Tournament, southwest of Hamilton. The event is sure to be an eye opener for the local crew, who do not benefit from any kind of regular season play of an ultra competitive nature, with limited rep lacrosse opportunities to be found in northern Ontario.

Nowhere is the learning curve more amped up than with the novices, the nine and ten year olds, as coach Brendan (B.J.) Adair takes a team with only a small handful of returning players away for their first taste of OLA (Ontario Lacrosse Association) competition.

Still, there is some confidence brewing within the group. “The teams there are really good, last year we got smoked,” acknowledged returnee Keegan Adair, a grade four student at St James in Lively. “But this year, I think we're going to do good. We have six or seven good players this year, guys with speed and players that can cradle and shoot.”

Like many of his teammates, Adair transitions to his summer pastime directly on the heels of his hockey season, with a couple of minor modifications in the works. “In hockey, you have your stick on the ground all the time, but in lacrosse, you always have it up,” said the soon-to-be ten year old. “You have to make sure you have your stick up on defence, and if someone is running through the “house”, you have to hit them.”

The notion of “house” protection is a critical one in the realm of rep lacrosse. “You have two people on the bottom, near the crease, beside your goalie,” explained Adair. “And then there is, at the top, one in the middle, one of the left side and one on the right side.” If properly positioned, the defensive formation, once connected, would basically draw the contours of a house.

Given the many summer options that exist for young athletes, the Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association needs to rely heavily on worth of mouth advertising to spread the word about the houseleague and competitive options that they offer. In many cases, this word of mouth created the core of the novice Rockhounds.

“When I found out my friend Keegan was playing, I thought it was probably fun, and my dad said I should try it, that it's good for hand-eye co-ordination for hockey,” noted teammate and fellow St James student Caleb Mead. Now in his second year with the Rockhounds, the nine year-old is beginning to garner a much better feel for one of the critical components of the game – shooting.

“It's a little bit easy and a little bit hard,” said Mead. “It's hard to go over your shoulder, but when you do it, it's always going to go in the right spot. When you get really good, you learn to shoot other ways, but for starters, you go over the shoulder.”

With so many first time Rockhounds in the mix, players such as Mead and Adair will take on the additional responsibility of sharing their prior experience with those who were about to get their first taste this weekend. “You tell them that you have to play harder and hit harder, because they're (other teams) are obviously going to be stronger and faster,” suggested Mead.

“You have to absorb hits better, because in houseleague, they're trying to eliminate hits.” Little surprise then than first year lacrosse player Jeremy Rheaume migrated quickly to the rep game. “My step-brothers played, and then I went to watch a lacrosse game in Toronto,” said the grade four student at Jean-Ethier Blais. “It was fun, and I like hitting.”

Yet another hockey player in the fold, Rheaume found a certain comfort in at least part of the game that came quite naturally. “In hockey, you have to move a lot, but with skating, you can fall easily. With running, well, you're born to do that.”<.p>

As for the coach, he knows enough to temper his expectations, as he guides this age grouping for a second straight year. “It's a pretty big development year for us,” noted coach Adair. “We've spent a lot of time together working on the basics, and we've seen a lot of growth, just in terms of basic co-ordination and where you have to be on the floor.”

“We have a couple of first year players who are new to the game, but are picking it up really quick,” Adair added. “For them, this is just to get a sense of what the game is like in southern Ontario. Those teams are playing once or twice a week, so it's much different than what they are used to seeing.”

The 2018 Sudbury Novice Rockhounds roster is comprised of Alex Rietze, Breaden Paradis, Liam Hagen, Allaura Peltier, Jeremy Rheaume, Josh Bell, Andrew Roney, Koda Peltier, Zeebin Ashawasegai, Jackson Mead, Caleb Mead, Keegan Adair and coaches Brendan Adair and Dan Mead.

The bantam Rockhounds will join the younger local lads in Six Nations, with coach Dave Lachance travelling with a squad that features no athletes that are completely new to rep lacrosse. “We started off the season ranked as a “C” team, that's what we submitted to the OLA, and I think that's a fair ranking,” he said.

“The big change at bantam is the contact in the defensive zone. We're under crunch time here to get them used to that. It's a little big bigger, a little bit faster, and a little bit more aggressive game.” For 14 year old second year bantam Blake Ramalho, the key to his game is defensive consistency, an element in which he takes a great deal of pride.

“I played three years before I played rep,” said Ramalho. “One of the coaches had seen my defence and they asked me to come out and tryout for the rep team. You have to hold your man and make sure that no one gets by you, and you always help out a teammate if they need help.”

And if opponents do slip past, then 12 year-old netminder Mason Robertson will look to be up to the challenge. “I started off as a player and then went to goalie because our team didn't have one in my first year, so I just stayed as goalie,” he said. “You have to make sure you are always watching your angles, making sure you cover the whole net.”

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