After going all year without a loss in the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League, the Prince Albert Predators quest for a second straight junior division title ended in disappointing fashion Sunday.
The Standing Buffalo Fighting Sioux shocked the crowd at the Kinsmen Arena as they picked up a 7-5 win in Game 2 and picked up a 3-1 triumph in a 10-minute mini-game to come away with the championship in their first year in the league.
“We just didn’t play our game today and we got away from what worked well yesterday,” Predators head coach Tyson Fetch said. “We were able to make their goalie (Teddy Yuzicappi) move around quite a bit on Saturday but we just weren’t able to get clean looks at their net.
“You have to give credit to them though. They played a really good season and they deserve it. Their overage guys have a lot of experience, especially their captain (Jaxen Dufour) who has won this four times now, and they really led the way today.”
Although the Fighting Sioux entered the playoffs as the third seed, the team turned in their best performances in the playoffs as they upset the Swift Current Wolverines in Tuesday’s semifinal to earn a chance to take on the Predators.
“We’ve embraced the fact that we are newcomers and we bought into being underdogs, but these guys have been successful as a team through the pee wee, bantam and midget levels before coming up to juniors,” Fighting Sioux head coach Don Larson said.
“As a coach, you are never satisfied after a game and I was up all night after Saturday’s (11-7) loss and trying to figure out how we could break down a team that’s been so dominant the last two years. We changed a couple of things in our system and the guys bought in. Plus, we also had some momentum from winning the first game and kept that going into the mini-game.”
Although they lost Game 2 of the series, the Predators did have some momentum on their side as they had scored a pair of goals late in the third period.
The mini-game was tied at one with 4:35 to go, but Joel Burrell scored twice in a minute and 40 seconds to give the Standing Buffalo the lead.
“After we got those late goals, I told the guys that we just needed to keep playing our game as we were starting to score again and they were looking tired,” Fetch said.
“As it turned out, we were the ones that were tired. We had inserted two guys into the lineup today after a couple of injuries last night, but they got hurt on their first shift of the game, so that changed things quite a bit.”
After dealing with a nagging left leg on Saturday, Yuzicappi was fantastic in goal for Standing Buffalo as he made 45 saves in Game 2 and turned aside seven shots in the mini-game.
“I’m definitely feeling better now,” Yuzicappi smiled. “It’s a great feeling to win the championship, especially with his group of guys.
“We struggled a little bit on defence last night but we were able to correct those mistakes and that allowed of us to have a better performance.”
Brody Yuzicappi-Brown had a pair of goals and an assist for the Fighting Sioux in Game 2, while Sandis Laswisse and Dufour each had a pair of points.
Dillan Cochrane scored one and three helpers for the Predators, while league MVP Tanner Vancoughnett had a pair of goals and an assist.
Steven Soyko, who had the lone goal in the mini-game, had a goal and an assist in the setback.
Although the final outcome wasn’t what they wanted, it was still a great campaign for the Predators, who will only be losing captain Carson Remy to graduation.
“There’s a chance that four or five guys might head down to Saskatoon, but we still have a great group coming back,” Fetch said.
“Our guys can hang their heads high with the season that we had, as it’s really tough to make the final after going unbeaten in the league.”