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Festival fosters memories for newcomers and vets alike
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The old and the new of the Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association (GSLA) were equally appreciative of the return of the Ontario Lacrosse Festival (provincial championships) in Whitby recently.

Both the Sudbury U22 Rockhounds and the Sudbury U9 Rockhounds shared the spotlight, from a local perspective – although the expectations and perspectives of the northern squads could not have been more different.

Assembling a roster of players who have donned the GSLA colours many times over, a group of young men who largely did not want to see their Rockhound experience come to a completion without enjoying another shot or two at provincials, coach Mike Miron and the U22 lads made the most of their journey south.

The seniors of the local rep lacrosse delegation captured gold in the U22 (Intermediate) C Division, saving their best effort for last with a 5-2 win over the North Perth Outlaws in the final.

Two goal performances by both Cameron Shanks and Oliver Coté along with a solo tally from captain Ben Harris gave Sudbury goaltender Mason Robertson all of the cushion he would need in the gold medal affair, with the Rockhounds looking better and better with each and every game after posting a record of 1-1 in pool play.

A 5-4 squeaker over the Wallaceburg Griffins was offset by a 4-2 setback at the hands of the Simcoe Timberwolves, with Linden Shanks and Ben Harris finding the back of the net for Sudbury. Yet another low-scoring affair, at least by box lacrosse standards, in the semi-finals as the Hounds stop the Fort Erie Hawks 3-1, with netminder Kiaus Lalonde backstopping the team to victory.

Ben Harris, Alex Hachez and Ashton Eadie netted the necessary goals to advance the Rockhounds, with North Perth edging Simcoe 2-1 in the remaining semi-final.

“Goaltending, discipline and our commitment to defense was the key to this championship,” stated coach Miron, a local product who played in the NLL (National Lacrosse League) as a young adult. “Our ability to stay composed - focused and in control of our emotions - really drove this team.”

That said, their one and only loss, one incurred largely due to a steady stream of Sudbury players making their way to the penalty box, certainly helped the coach drive home his point. “I don’t usually raise my voice – I’m not that kind of a coach – but I really let them have it after game two,” admitted Miron.

With a push towards operating the team in much the same manner as a junior franchise, Miron managed to supplement a core group of players that includes his own son (Mason Robertson) with others who knew and understood the game well, allowing the team to bask in the knowledge of a job well done following the Festival.

“It means so much more accomplishing this and knowing that we hadn’t played lacrosse in almost three years,” summarized Miron.

Rounding out the Sudbury roster were Connor Craftchick, Austin Arlt, Jared Eadie-Chartrand, Jack Moskalyk, Andrew Whitehouse, Keegan Esquimaux-Osawamick, Mason Lachance, Brek Morrow, Jack Gouchie, Cody Wahl, Blake Ramalho and Kenneth MacNeill.

As for the U9 Rockhounds, the team could not have asked for a whole lot more drama at the Festival, with three of their five games coming right down to the final buzzer, with the first year team making it through to the final four.

A goal from Arlo Angus with 3.2 ticks on the clock allowed the Rockhounds to escape their opener with a 10-10 tie with the Orillia Kings as the Sudbury crew competed in the U9 Division C OLA Provincials.

The tally would give the talented northern scorer a four goal game, a total that was matched by teammate Hector Medland. Rounding out the Rockhounds attack were Laughlin Hagen and Tucker Robitaille.

Game two was easily the most comfortable win for the nickel city reps, doubling the Huntsville Hawks 14-7 behind the offensive trio of Medland (7 goals), Angus (6) and Hagen (1).

That same troika was right back at it in the final round robin game as the Rockhounds escaped with a 12-11 win over Peterborough Lakers, building up a 12-7 third period lead and holding on over a frantic final five minutes of play.

Angus bumped his tournament total to 18, finding the back of the net eight times against the Lakers, with Medland (3) and Hagen also chipping in.

A second straight one goal win would see the Sudbury squad lean upon a few new faces in the goal scoring parade as the locals captured their semi-final affair 7-6 over the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves.

Medland (3) and Angus (2) were front and centre, once again, with Tucker Robitaille and Daxton Wabano also hitting the mark once each.

A semi-final battle against the eventual goal medal winning Clarington Gaels would mark the end of the line for the U9 crew, dropping a 16-5 decision to an opponent that would then roll over the West Durham Rockmen in a lopsided goal medal encounter (10-2).

Joining the previously mentioned Sudbury players at their first ever appearance at provincials were goaltender Jack Wilson as well as Luna Bertrand-Thrush, Justin Goulin, Zayden McGregor, Nwaadbasse Trudeau, Jimmy Simpson, Mako-Mgizi-Kwe Ashawasega and Athena Carrière.

Also taking part in the OLA Festival were the U11 and U13 Rockhounds, both of whom failed to advance to the playoffs following round robin play. The U11 entry squeezed a close win over the Stayner Hitmen (4-3) between losses to the Pelham Raiders (9-2) and the Owen Sound North Stars (8-5) while the U13 team earned a tie against the Guelph Regals (7-7), not enough to move on after being defeated by the Newmarket Redbirds (7-5) and Peterborough Lakers (6-3).

Back to the U22 team, just for a moment, as goaltender Kiaus Lalonde entered play at provincials armed with some additional confidence after attending the inaugural Canadian Box Showcase last month.

“I improved with everything,” noted the 16 year-old grade 12 student at St Charles College. “That camp was really fun. I was playing with guys there who were A and B players, which was really exciting. I think I improved the most at going down from my stance to my knees to save the ball.”

While Lalonde would like to focus his off-court training on improving both his speed and his strength, he will continue to rely on a very solid grasp of opponents’ ball movement, a key component to ensuring that his positioning, his angles are as close to perfect as possible.

“You’ve got to track the ball really well when they are passing it,” he said. “It’s very useful for a goalie who looks side to side to know what will happen next. I can usually do that, almost all of the time. I can see the whole floor; I can see every play that’s going on.”

With every single player on the U22 team eligible to return in 2023, Lalonde sees no issue in looking to raise the overall level of play for the Sudbury crew next spring. “It’s really fun to play against somebody at a higher caliber,” he said. “You get more of a challenge out of that.”

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