Presidents Cup Day 3, Tuesday August 29
by Stephen Stamp
Day 3 was blowout day at the 2023 Presidents Cup at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville. Through the first two days, six of nine games had been decided by either 1 or 2 goals and a seventh was decided by 3. On Tuesday, the goal differentials in the four games were 9, 6, 5 and 9.
It wasn't always pretty, but the results did provide for a bit more clarity in the playoff race. Let's take a look at the day's 3 Stars, Unsung Hero, Quote of the Day, Thinking Outside the Box and Quick Sticks.
3 Stars, Day 3
1 Christian Del Bianco, Ladner Pioneers, 45 saves on 48 shots, .938 save percentage, 1 assist
Del Bianco was stellar stopping the ball, he showed off his terrific passing ability, and he came out on the positive side of an equipment challenge by the Rivermen that had him smiling as he headed to the room to be checked, knowing that his gear was legal and the Pioneers would be heading to the power play when he came back.
2 Troy Holowchuk, Six Nations Rivermen, 23 saves on 25 shots, .920 save percentage
Holowchuk has now twice stepped in for a struggling Dustin Hill, who was our first star on Day 1, and been nothing short of brilliant for the Rivermen. Given that the last two Pioneers goals were into the empty net, Six Nations actually outscored Ladner 3-2 while Holowchuk was between the pipes.
3 Nick Rose, Oakville Rock
Yep, all goalies today. With apologies to Andrew Kew and Ryan Lanchbury, I just couldn't decide between them. Kew had 9 goals and 7 assists today in Oakville's two blowout wins while Lanchbury had 7 goals and 11 assists. Either would make a great first star. But it would be unjust not to recognize Rose at some point for just how consistently excellent he has played. So kudos to the scorers, but today we celebrate the men who stop the ball.
Dylan Hutchison, Kahnawake Mohawks
Hutchison is the kind of player who can in a variety of ways. He plays primarily out the back door, but he has been known to take shifts on offence in both MSL and the Arena Lacrosse League when his teams have needed him to fill in, and he is definitely skilled enough to fit right in as a forward. Hutchison has worked hard to become a strong defender. He has shown what he can do on a number of occasions in the Presidents Cup.
In Kahnawake's first game, against Snake Island, Hutchison realized on a Muskies' shot attempt that he could not get in the shooting lane without being more of a screen than a help, so he just got good position to box out his man and let the goalie have a clear view. That let him pick up an easy rebound loose ball that he ran up across centre, where he surveyed the situation and wisely didn't force anything when it was clear there was no imminent scoring chance. Instead, Hutchison moved the ball safely to someone coming off the bench.
Against Tuscarora on Day 3, Hutchison took a loose ball over centre, made a pass deep to the corner then cut to the net to receive a give and go pass, which resulted in a scoring chance that forced Chase Martin to make a good save. Small details, but they go a long way to success in lacrosse.
Quote of the Day
Dan Lintner, Oakville Rock
On whether the Rock were worried about their offence after scoring only 4 goals in their opening game against Six Nations.
“No worry at all. We thought we played pretty decent. Dusty [Hill] had a great game, obviously. We just finished playing them for about a month straight in the Ontario finals. The defence played great. For the O, it was just a matter of time. We're a smaller but athletic offence, I'd say. If we're going to be putting up 50 to 60 shots a game it's a matter of time before they start to drop.”
On the blend of veterans and young players on the Rock as they entered the Presidents Cup.
“There were some jitters but we've stuck to our game plan and it's working out. We've got the guys who can handle the ball and shoot the ball, like Lanchbury and Kew. I think we've got a lot of weapons. We've got some young guys, we've got guys that know how to move their feet and bury the ball. The D guys do their part, both on defence but pushing the ball up and scoring some goals as well. That transition takes a little bit of the pressure off us up front. We still need to do our part, but it's great they put two or three or four in in a game.”
Thinking Outside the Box
Presidents Cup participants beyond the Prezzy
Skkylar Thomas, Snake Island Muskies
No, you're not seeing double...there really are two 'k's in Thomas' first name. When asked why, Thomas said “That's just my parents, I guess, they just wanted to be unique.”
It seems to have worked, because Thomas says someone checked and “Apparently it's the only one in Canada.”
With a name like that, you have to wonder if people wind up spelling it incorrectly. “All the time, all the time,” Thomas says with a laugh.
“It wasn't bad” dealing with the spelling of his name in school, Thomas adds. “You just had to kind of get through it. Not a big deal.”
Even without the unusual spelling, people in the lacrosse world would have taken note of Thomas' name. He entered the Arena Lacrosse League with a splash when he posted 8 assists to go with a pair of goals in his first game with the Peterborough Timbermen in January of 2020. Thomas only got into six games in that Covid-shortened season, but he still managed to get another double-digit scoring night when he put up 10 assists against the Oshawa Outlaws in February. More importantly, all the assists helped the Timbermen to a pair of wins, including an 18-17 shootout in Oshawa.
Thomas garnered some more spotlight thanks to one of the unique rules played in the Professional Box Lacrosse Association last winter. Each team was allowed to opt for a penalty shot instead of a minor penalty twice per half. The rule was later amended to once per half, probably in large part because Thomas was routinely scoring 3 or 4 penalty shot goals per game with his ridiculously quick feet and hands making for a lethal combination.
🥍 Layne Smith is way faster than you'd think, given that he is a big guy. The Six Nations Rivermen forward and leading scorer ran the whole way back down the floor with a pretty quick defender who was looking to get a breakaway, and Smith did not lose any ground. That is not a unique occurrence. Smith did it several times playing for the Jim Thorpe All Americans in the PBLA. He even played a fair bit of defence for Jim Thorpe because the substitution rules made being able to play both ends important. Smith did a good job on D, he showed remarkable speed for his size, and even though he hasn't had the best tournament at the Prezzy so far, he is still a deadly shooter. It will surprise me if he does not get an invitation to an NLL camp this fall.
🥍 Kahnawake defender Hare McComber one upped Matt Kim by scoring 2 woodie transition goals on Tuesday. Edmonton's Kim stopped using the woodie for faceoffs today but he is still switching out after draws to get the woodie for continuing to play with.
🥍 Ryan Benesch is ridiculously smooth. His goal in the third against Rivermen was a thing of beauty, a dead overhand that he snuck between a pair of defenders. It was also a huge goal as Greg Elijah-Brown had recently scored to pull the Rivermen to within 5-3 and it felt like Six Nations may be starting to find their game. Benesch pulled the plug on that momentum.
🥍 What a huge swing in Rock/Muskies with a minute and a half to go in first period. Stephen Keogh ripped home a gorgeous outside shot to the far top corner for what looked like a goal that would tie it up 3-3. The Oakville bench was yelling at refs, who realized that Snake Island had six runners on the floor (while there is no replay review, the replay on the broadcast showed there clearly were six runners) so the goal was waved off. Oakville went back to the other end and Josh Dawick buried a shot to make it 4-2. Jerry Staats took an unsportsmanlike penalty so the Rock went to the power play and Andrew Kew scored his 3rd goal to make it 5-2. It felt at the time like that might just turn the game around, but it was hard to imagine just how much it would do so.
Oakville wound up winning 13-4, outscoring the Muskies 8-2 the rest of the way, and things got rather ugly with several Snake Island players turning to dirty plays with their wooden sticks down the stretch.
🥍 Ladner is sitting pretty with a perfect 3-0 record. They may well be one of the four teams to make the semis even if they lost their last three games, but that is highly unlikely, and one more win will almost surely clinch them a playoff spot.
🥍 Oakville is in really good shape, as well, at 3-1 with a +25 goal differential. Again, they could probably lose their last two and be okay, but the way they're playing that is hard to envision.
🥍 Kahnawake is 2-1. They still play Six Nations, Edmonton and Oakville.
🥍 Edmonton is 2-2. They still play Snake Island and Kahnawake.
🥍 Snake Island is 2-2. They still play Edmonton and Ladner.
🥍 If you think you know how those three teams will wind up, good for you. I am just looking forward to seeing it all play out, knowing that some good teams are going to miss the playoffs and the next two days should be the best days of what has already been a very good tournament.
🥍 You could say Snake Island is in tough because they still have to play Ladner. But the Pioneers will almost surely have clinched a playoff spot already by then, and in such a tough tournament it would surprising if they didn't take a chance to rest some players. They'll still be really good, but they may not be more vulnerable than on Thursday afternoon.
🥍 Kahnawake/Edmonton obviously has huge implications. The winner looks good for the semis, the loser will need other things to go their way.
🥍 Still, I come back to, there are so many things that could happen, the only thing to do is sit back and enjoy it all playing out either at the TRAC in person or on the free live webcasts.