A very nice run, at provincials, may have ended one step short for the Sudbury Bantam Rockhounds, but that wasn't about to stop head coach Dave Lachance and company from looking back, with pride, on their unexpected journey.
Ranked 15th in a 16-team Bantam "C" bracket, the Rockhounds knew they would be hard-pressed to advance beyond their four-team pool, let alone enjoy the chance to celebrate a playoff victory.
Expecting their best crack at a win might well come in their opening tilt opposite the Centre Wellington Mohawks, the Sudbury lads made the most of their opportunity, racking up a 7-3 triumph.
A four-goal effort from Ben Harris helped pave the way, with Oliver Côté adding a pair and Mason Lachance capping things off, offensively. At the other end of the rink, Mason Robertson looked more than solid between the pipes for Sudbury.
Feeling that perhaps their task was done, the locals came out flat against the perennial powerhouse Whitby Warriors and suffered the consequences, beaten 10-3, as Hunter McLean, Bradford Scarpellini and Harris accounted for the goals in a losing cause.
There would be no lack of motivation in the round-robin finale, the northern squad pitted against a Cornwall Celtics team that had taken it to an undermanned Sudbury entry in Gloucester last month, thumping the Rockhounds 8-1 back in July.
It was an entirely different story, this time around, with the netminders grabbing the spotlight as Cornwall held on to a 1-0 advantage after two periods of play. Understanding that it was "win or go home time", the GSLA representatives deadlocked the contest at 1-1, with Scarpellini pulling the trigger with under four minutes to play.
This set the stage for more scoring heroics courtesy of Ben Harris, burying the game-winning goal with less than two minutes showing on the clock. Riding this wave of momentum, Sudbury then surprised the Arthur Aces 4-2, backstopped by a brick wall effort from goaltender Kiaus Lalonde.
Ashton Eadie-Chartrand, Côté and Lachance finding the back of the net in the opening two periods, the latter adding his second of the game as insurance in the final minute of play.
Things were not going to get any easier in the semi-finals, the Rockhounds running directly into the top ranked Wallaceburg Griffins. Undaunted, the Rockhounds kept it close, trailing 4-2 in the third before pulling even as Eadie-Chartrand (2), Brandon Roney and Scarpellini all scored, with Lachance chipping in with three assists.
Unfortunately, the Griffins would capitalize on a late power-play, sending the Sudbury crew to the sidelines. Despite great expectations, the Sudbury Peewee Rockhounds could not match the efforts of the bantams, cruising through pool play before being unceremoniously dumped in quarter-final action.
The Peewees made quick work of the Guelph Regals (9-2), Owen Sound North Stars (10-2) and Lincoln Crush (8-2), but were sent packing by the thinnest of margins, dropping a 6-5 decision to the Brampton Excelsiors.
The Sudbury Novice Rockhounds wrap up the local delegation to the Ontario Lacrosse Festival this weekend, having already put themselves in great position to advance to the playoffs.
The locals stopped the Midland Braves 11-4 and thumped the Nepean Knights 7-1, closing out their preliminary games with a matchup opposite the 1-1 Akwesasne Indians on Saturday morning.
The Novice Rockhounds are competing in the 16 team Division "E" grouping. In other local lacrosse news, goaltender Cloé Douillette, who suited up with the Thunder Bay Ice in Intermediate "A" competition this summer, has also just returned from provincials.
Carrying a very short bench, the Ice overcame a 4-3 setback to Nepean in game one, blanking Akwesasne 4-0 and tripling Guelph 3-1 to earn at least one extra game. Unfortunately, the Six Nations Warriors downed Thunder Bay 4-1, ending a summer that would see the Ice claim a tournament championship in Kitchener, settling for silver in Whitby and advancing to the final four in Six Nations>.