Predators to begin title defense Saturday against Weyburn

Photo by Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald Members of the Prince Albert Predators look on from the bench during a team practice on Tuesday night at the Kinsmen Arena.

The road to defending the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League (PGLL) title begins on Saturday for the Prince Albert Predators.

The Preds will welcome the Weyburn Razorbacks to the Kinsmen Arena for a pair of games on Saturday to kick off their regular season schedule.

Prince Albert returns several key pieces from last year’s championship team including starting goaltender Mason Hawkes. Last season, Hawkes was named the Preds Most Valuable Player and also took home the PGLL playoff MVP award.

Hawkes says he is looking forward to getting the season underway.

“(I’m) pretty excited. We’ve been kind of practicing for quite a bit leading up to it and I think everyone’s been antsy to get going. It’s really nice, everyone’s pretty close. We’ve always been a close-knit group and then keeping 20 of the same guys as last year is really nice, a lot of key pieces coming back this year.”

Three players graduated from last year’s Predators team with Kieron Hoko, Chase Netmaker and Tyler Gusdal all moving on.

Prince Albert returns key players in all positions groups including Hawkes, Matthew Cudmore, Hayden Ulriksen and Waylon Altstadt amongst others.

Predators head coach Lucas Wells says Prince Albert will be relying on their veteran core to show the team’s younger players how to play.

“It’s tremendous. We had a lot of guys that arguably could have gone and played at higher levels. They wanted to stick around here and play Predator lacrosse and play with their buddies and hopefully go back to back. That’s our end goal. We got a bunch of younger guys in here that are learning from these veteran guys.”

It will be the first ever matchup between the Predators and Razorbacks as 2024 will mark Weyburn’s inaugural PGLL campaign.

Wells says the Predators aren’t taking Weyburn lightly heading into the matchup.

“I think as a new team, I don’t really know what to expect. Looking at their roster, they have a couple older guys and a bunch of younger guys and nothing really in between. I imagine they’re going to be physical, but they are still young. With it being their first PGLL game, I expect us to play physical, play our brand of lacrosse, and come out hard. We can’t take them lightly just because it is their first regular season game. We have to treat every game like it’s a championship game.”

Last season, the Predators finished atop the regular season standings posting a 12-1-1 record and defeating the Swift Current Wolverines 12-11 in overtime to capture the league championship.

Wells says he expects to see plenty of parity within the PGLL this season.

“I think last year’s final was great for the league, that was arguably one of the best games Saskatchewan lacrosse has ever seen. I think the game in Saskatchewan is growing, every team now sees that level of play and expect their teams to play at that level. I expect the league to be very competitive this year. Swift is always good. Regina is usually pretty good. Moose Jaw was young last year, and they returned everybody, so I expect them to be competitive.”

The games on Saturday start at 2 and 7 p.m. from Kinsmen Arena. In addition, the Prince Albert Outlaws will take on former NLL MVP Jeff Shattler and the Standing Buffalo Fighting Sioux at 4:30 p.m.