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Shootout returns as U13 Rockhounds lay claim to a banner
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With back to back provincial championships on his resume, former professional lacrosse goaltender Mike Miron has done a masterful job with a core of Sudbury Rockhounds U22 talent in recent years, guiding their development as head coach.

And should he decide to stay in the post for just a handful more years, it sure looks like he would be moulding a pretty special group of youngsters at that time as well.

The up and coming U13 Rockhounds as well as Miron and the U22 lads joined three other local teams, representing northern hopes on the weekend as the region played host to the Nickel City Shootout for the first time in a decade.

For as much as the banner winning performance from the U13 team and a consolation crown for the U22 squad highlighted the Sudbury showings, there may have been far more of a takeaway from the incredible feedback that organizers received from the contingent of 24 out of town entries that covered pretty much every corner of the province.

Still, a hometown tournament win is always pretty sweet, especially for a team that surrendered an incredibly stingy total of just five goals against in a five game sweep that culminated with an 8-2 win over the Brantford Warriors Sunday afternoon in Coniston.

“Our offense was a little bit off, but was still there, but I felt our defense was the best part of our game,” noted 11 year-old Oliver Brunetti who netted a breakaway goal early in the second period on a great pass from Gareth Mead, breaking open a 1-1 game against a foe that had played the Sudbury youngsters to a 2-2 draw on Friday night.

“We all have to pick up a man; we have to not screen the goalie,” added the soon-to-be grade six student at St James in Lively. “I think we helped our goalie a lot compared to most teams.”

But when opponents did break free – and they inevitably will given the nature of lacrosse – Rockhounds’ netminder Wyatt Williams was standing tall, fresh off the news that he had cracked the Buffalo Bandits Jr NLL team that will compete next month in tournament play at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville.

“I’ve tried goalie before and it’s not easy,” suggested Brunetti. “It’s probably one of the hardest things I have tried. I wouldn’t want to be in front of that ball.”

After besting the Akwesasne Storm 11-1 in game two and then posting back to back shutouts over the Orillia Kings (10-0 and 4-0), the Rockhounds were finding goals a little harder to come by in the opening frame of the championship affair.

“After the first period, we knew that we were a better team and we put it into second gear,” said Brunetti. “We just decided that it wasn’t going to be just one person on the team who had to be doing this, it’s the whole team that had to be going.”

Cohen Wabano and Kaesen Adair also chipped in with two goal efforts in the gold medal game for Sudbury, with Gareth Mead and Jonah Ashcroft rounding out the scoring.

Other members of the U13 championship winning Rockhounds team included Noah Therrien, Jarrett Marshall, Clark Montgomery, Cedric Poulin, Bennett Bouchard, Matheos Carriere, Matthew Christakos, Parker Roy, Dallyn Lalonde, Logan Peltier and Karson Ferguson.

Blessed with a nifty touch in tight to the net, Brunetti noted that his three years of involvement with the rep lacrosse program in Sudbury has provided a near perfect fit for his athletic abilities.

“All of a sudden, it’s become my favourite sport,” he said. “I feel like I have a natural talent for it. I’ve found my sport.”

Jack Gouchie has known that feeling for a few years now.

The 19 year-old who has just completed year one of his Business studies at Western University goes back far enough, in terms of his Rockhounds resume, to recall the last time that Sudbury played host to the summer Shootout, his then tyke team capturing a banner with a 4-3 win over Caledon.

His current U22 Rockhounds team appeared well on their way to duplicating that feat after opening play on Friday with a pair of victories: 2-1 over the Peterborough Lakers and 7-2 over the Barrie Bombers.

But a depleted lineup that would see a small handful of key absentees for this weekend carried a price to be paid on Saturday as the Sudbury elders lost 4-2 to the West Grey Rampage and 6-3 to the Newmarket Redbirds, dropped to the consolation final and a rematch with Barrie.

Still, a 6-3 triumph over the Bombers in a contest that featured a hat trick from Alex Hachez and solo markers from Ashton Eadie-Chartrand, Ben Harris and Jack Gouchie did come at something of an opportune time for this talented crew.

“We haven’t really struggled this year,” said Gouchie. “We’ve only had one less in the Toronto tournament – and that was in triple overtime in the final. It was nice to bounce back (in this game), especially going to Ottawa next weekend (Ray Broadworth Tournament in Nepean).”

“Hopefully we can build on this win and play well there.”

Now in his third year with the U22 Rockhounds, Gouchie is thankful for the bond that has been built between he and his long-time teammates. “I would say that our chemistry is definitely the strongest out of any team here,” he said. “Some of the better programs (down south) will have junior teams with the better players moving on to junior – but we don’t have that here.”

“Most of us have played together since we were six years old so we’ve always had that chemistry but Mike (coach Mike Miron) kind of harnessed it, so now we are where we want to be.”

While that second sense of knowing exactly where your teammates are located on the floor is helpful in pretty much every aspect of the game, it’s especially handy in the defensive zone, according to Gouchie.

“On defense, our shifting and switching is really good. Everyone talks out there. We switch really efficiently on screens which makes it tough for teams to score. On offense, we’re always locked in on what’s going to happen next which leads to a lot of goals.”

As for the remaining Rockhounds’ entries, the U15 squad advanced to the semi-finals with a record of 1-1-1 but were eliminated via a 5-3 semi-final loss to the Orillia Kings, in spite of goals from Jackson Mead, Koda Peltier and Aidan O’Coin as Sudbury spotted their opponents a 5-0 lead.

The U11 Rockhounds were also sent packing in the semis, beaten 10-6 by the Gloucester Griffins while the U9 team played in their first ever tournament, defeated soundly in their first two encounters but learning on the fly with a much closer 9-7 setback to the Gloucester Griffins in game three.

Sudbury Wolves