The fact that Sudbury Rockhound teams are not slotted into every single age bracket from U9 to the former Intermediate grouping, coming out of the pandemic, is hardly a surprise for anyone who has followed the rep lacrosse scene in recent years in the city.
The age brackets that are fielding teams during the summer of 2022, however, has raised some eyebrows.
The young incoming glut was expected, with teams at the U9/U11/U13 divisions already up and running, the latter two entering their first tournament of the season last weekend in Fergus. The addition of the U22 bracket to the mix for an association that has rarely featured athletes who, as a core, see it through to this age has been something of a revelation.
Though Alex Hachez is the pup of this litter at just sixteen years of age, his involvement speaks volumes of his constant dedication to the game that he loves, even if it means playing outside of his natural comfort zone.
“The age gap is big, which makes it tougher, but it’s all good,” suggested the young man who kicks off his grade 12 studies at E.S.C. l’Horizon in September. “You have to be a little more careful, knowing that you’re playing with 21 year olds. You have to keep your head up.”
And where his game was once all about the offense in his younger years, Hachez has taken on a very different role with the U22 Rockhounds. “Mike (coach Mike Miron) really likes me on defense,” he said. “When I’m playing a game, I’m trying not to get scored on at all. People see my size and they’re usually surprised how hard I can hit them.”
“I can hold my own. I haven’t had anyone run over me or anything yet.”
Of course, being smaller and nimble lends itself well to the development of highly advanced stick skills. And while the majority of teens look to utilize this creativity more so on offense, Hachez has incorporated a nifty little defensive trick into his arsenal.
“When people have the ball, I always try and focus on having a stick on them,” he outlined. “When they go to shoot, you’ve got to try and be fast and actually catch the ball. I can do that quite a bit; you would be surprised. This is not like hockey - you can’t block the shot. All you have is your stick, so if you’re good at that, you can block a lot of shots.”
If Alex Hachez was committed to the team the moment coach Miron put the bug in his ear, Lindon Shanks was at the other extreme of the spectrum. Though younger brother Cameron had already signed on, the 20 year old graduate of Electrical Engineering at Cambrian who recently added pre-service fire-fighting to his resume had not truthfully picked up a lacrosse stick since maybe grade nine or ten.
“I was doing nothing on a Thursday night, before their first tournament, and we’re at family dinner and (talk of) lacrosse comes up,” said Shanks, who did play with the Rockhounds as a youth player several years back. “I think my brother was leaving for practice at 7:45 and it’s 7:30 and I said sure, text the coach and if he gets back to me, I’ll go out and run around.”
By the end of practice, coach Miron had seen enough. He was convinced Shanks could help the crew as they made their way to Stayner - even if he wasn’t completely convinced that he could cut through the red tape to get his new arrival registered with the provincial body in time for action the next day.
“I’m at fire-fighting school in Azilda and I haven’t looked at my phone,” said Shanks. “It’s noon and there’s all of these texts and calls from my dad and my brother and the coach. We left Sudbury really late - and I borrowed a set of kidney pads.”
And while his helping hand was surely appreciated, Shanks quickly found out that fire-fighting shape and upper level lacrosse game shape might be two very different animals altogether. “I thought the running wouldn’t be so bad, so I was running up and down the floor (in game one) fairly often,” he said.
“About midway through, the coach went to put me out but I needed a break. The next day, I was a lot easier on the running.”
Of course, with practice, that too will come. And Shanks has ample reason to see this summer through. “I never, ever played an organized sport with my brother,” he beamed. “I’m glad I’m doing this, before it really will never happen. If my brother wasn’t playing, I don’t know if I would be out here.”
In the end, the U22 Rockhounds posted a record of 1-2 in Stayner, a very respectable showing given the starting point for this team. This past weekend, however, the U13 Rockhounds upped the ante, making it all the way to the final of the Scott Gerrie Memorial Tournament hosted by the Center Wellington Riverhawks and settling for silver medals.
The northern lads started quickly, stopping the Uxbridge Enforcers 6-1 on Friday as Etienne Hutchings paced the attack with a hat-trick, with Malik Jakubo, Koda Peltier and Levi Blouin chipping in with one goal apiece.
The U13 Rockhounds fell to 1-1 Saturday morning, dropping a 3-1 decision to the host team, with Peltier breaking the shutout bid late before securing their berth in the semi-finals with a huge 7-5 triumph over the Guelph Royals later in the afternoon.
Etienne Hutchings and Jackson Mead drilled home two tallies each, with solo markers coming courtesy of Koda Peltier, Malik Jakubo and Levi Blouin as Sudbury scored twice in the last five minutes for the win.
Apparently, the youngsters took a liking to that final score as they dumped the Arthur Aces by the exact same 7-5 count Sunday morning in semi-final play, with Mead netting the hat-trick and Liam Hagen adding a pair of assists. Rounding out the scoring for the winners were Peltier, Blouin, Hutchings and Jakubo.
Unfortunately, the Rockhounds would come up just one step short as Center Wellington scored four times in the third period of the final, besting the Sudbury squad 7-3. The remainder of the local U13 rep lacrosse roster is comprised of stalwart netminder Damien Dell (who played each and every game), William Gouchie, Brayden Wabano, Leo Gerhardt, Johnny Osawamick, Tucker Johnson and Zach Ashawasegai, with staff duties undertaken by Benoit Douillette (head coach), Dan Mead and Steve Gouchie (assistant coaches) and team manager Carolyn Hagen.
Meanwhile, the U11 Rockhounds managed to secure on win in three games, bouncing back nicely following a game one 9-3 loss to the Arthur Aces, with call-up Arlo Angus, Logan Peltier and Matthew Christakos handling the offense for Sudbury.
Plenty to celebrate in game two as the Rockhounds silenced the North Perth Outlaws 6-1, with Gareth Mead and Kaesen Adair enjoying two goal performances for Sudbury. Cohen Wabano and call-up Hector Medland also hit paydirt while first time goaltender Keenan Joyce was rock-solid in net for the nickel city crew.
A chance to move on would come right down to the wire as Sudbury jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Hector Medland and Karson Ferguson before the Guelph Regals stormed back, doubling the Hounds 4-2, eliminating the locals from playoff contention.
Despite having only three players on the roster who had even held a lacrosse stick prior to this year, the team that also featured Oliver Brunetti, Noah Therrien, Cedric Poulin, Braydon Chevrette, Tucker Robitaille, Dallyn Lalonde, Matheos Carriere and Jarrett Marshall provided a very solid account for lacrosse in the north.