After four tense, nail-biting games, the Prince Albert Midget Trappers can call themselves provincial champions.
The Trappers went undefeated at the Saskatchewan box lacrosse provincial championships in Saskatoon, securing the title with an 8-6 victory over the Regina Attack on Sunday, July 7.
The win was a sweet moment for the club, which had their hands full securing Prince Albert’s first provincial midget box lacrosse championship since 2010.
“There were no easy games all weekend,” Trappers coach Javan Bexson said. “The kids had to battle every game. Nothing came easy.”
The Trappers opened provincials with a 6-5 come-from-behind win over the Moose Jaw Mustangs on July 5. Down 5-4 entering the third, the club rallied for two goals while keeping Moose Jaw off the score sheet to secure the win.
The Trappers then posted back-to-back victories over the Saskatoon Seals, winning 8-6 on July 5 and 6-3 on July 6. Hayden Ulriksen led the way with a hat-trick in the first game, while Kade Beaton and Bauer Swystun contributed two goals each.
Prince Albert jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second match between the two clubs, but Saskatoon rallied for two third period goals to make things interesting. The Trappers withstood the late charge and added a last-minute empty-netter to seal the victory.
Bexson credited his team for their resiliency in winning three close matches.
“They’re hard workers and they put in the time to get better,” he said. “They’re just really dedicated to the game.”
The gold medal match with Regina looked to be over almost as soon as it started. The Trappers roared out to a 5-0 first period lead, and led 7-1 as the game approached the halfway mark.
However, the Attack bounced back with three straight third second goals and another early in the third to make it a two-goal contest.
“We’ve been around long enough to know no lead is safe,” Bexson said. “Goals come in runs. We were lucky to get a good first run. We didn’t sit back, but they just kept coming and we got ourselves into a little bit of penalty trouble and were on the defensive for the next part of the game. We just had to weather the storm until the end.”
Prince Albert got some breathing room when Liam Netmaker scored to make it 8-5. Regina added another goal to make it 8-6, but it was too little, too late. The Trappers were provincial champions.
“It’s what we wanted, and we were able to follow through and make it happen,” Bexson said. “It’s absolutely awesome.”
Bantam Smoke Jumpers earn silver
John Schatz couldn’t be more impressed with his players.
The coach of the Prince Albert Bantam Smoke Jumpers had nothing but praise for his squad, who took home a silver medal at the provincial tournament in Saskatoon.
“They came together. No one was selfish,” Schatz said. “They wanted to play for each other and they wanted to win for each other.”
The Smoke Jumpers opened provincials with a narrow 7-6 victory over the Estevan-Weyburn Thrasher-Voltz. They then beat the Standing Buffalo Fighting Sioux 10-3 before hammering the Saskatoon Thunder 15-4.
A hard-fought 7-4 victory over the Saskatoon Beavers propelled the Smoke Jumpers into the provincial finals, where they lost 4-3 to the Swift Current Rampage.
Despite the loss in the gold medal game, Schatz was upbeat and excited about how the club handled the tournament.
“The commitment that they put in the whole season—to better themselves as players—really led to their performance in that tournament,” he said.
He’s also encouraged by how popular youth lacrosse is becoming in Prince Albert. When he started playing while growing up in Saskatoon, lacrosse was a seen as a secondary activity. Now, he’s seeing more and more kids making it their primary choice.
“It’s turning into a huge sport,” he said. “It’s really nice to see, especially for us guys who played it our whole life and it wasn’t that popular sport everyone wanted to be a part of.”
Looking ahead to nationals
With club competitions wrapped up for another season, Prince Albert’s top youth lacrosse players will begin focusing on nationals.
A number of Prince Albert players are expected to make Team Saskatchewan at both the Bantam and Midget levels. Those two tournaments will take place on Aug. 20-24 in Coquitlam, B.C.
Multiple Prince Albert players will also be trying out for Team Saskatchewan’s field lacrosse squad, who will compete at nationals in September.