Presidents Cup Day 6, Friday September 1
by Stephen Stamp
The 2023 Presidents Cup is being held in Ontario, but the Canadian Sr B lacrosse championship trophy will be returning to the west after the defending champion Ladner Pioneers and the RMLL champion Edmonton Miners won Friday's semifinals at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville.
Ladner downed Three Nations champion Snake Island 10-8 in the first semi and Edmonton beat the host and Ontario champion Oakville Rock 8-7 in the nightcap.
Let's take a look at today's 3 Stars, Unsung Hero, Quote of the Day, Thinking Outside the Box and Quick Sticks after Day 6 of the 2023 Prezzy.
3 Stars, Semifinals
1 Cam MacLeod, Edmonton Miners, 41 saves on 48 shots, .854 save percentage
The big man from the Miners, Mike Triolo, got strong consideration here, but MacLeod made save after save including a clutch stop of Rock star Andrew Kew down the stretch to preserve the win for Edmonton. After Matt Hiebert was excellent in Edmonton's do or die game yesterday, it was not even certain if MacLeod would start. He started, and he finished, all with aplomb.
2 Austin Shanks, Ladner Pioneers, 2 goals, 2 assists
Shanks had 4 points but created a boatload of chances for himself and his teammates as Ladner earned a return to the Presidents Cup final.
3 Mike Triolo, Edmonton Miners, 4 goals, 2 assists
Apologies to all the players on Oakville and Snake Island who put in valiant efforts, but Triolo was sensational again for the Miners. Triolo led the tournament with 24 goals, 6 more than anyone else had, and many of them came even when the opponents knew exactly what was coming; he was just too good to sop.
Spencer Milne, Edmonton Miners
The Miners do have some well known names on their back end, headed by stellar veteran Tyler Burton, but Milne entered the tournament as a relative unknown. He is the kind of player who grows on you the more you see him play, which is appropriate for a 6'7”, 235-pound defender. Milne has played solid defence and smart transition for Edmonton. On Friday it looked like he might also play the hero when he broke in alone on Rock goalie Nick Rose late in the tied semifinal. Rose thwarted the attempt, though, so Milne left the hero's role to Levi Anderson. Still, Milne's contribution to the Miners reaching the championship game should not be underestimated.
Quote of the Day
Ross Frehlick, Ladner Pioneers
On the difference between coming in as defending champs this year compared to a season ago.
“It's definitely different to go in as the favourite. I don't know if that's how everyone perceived us, but you go in and you get everyone's best every game. Last year we knew we were good and we had guys who had never played in a Presidents Cup and they thought, How can't we win? Having 20 returning made a difference for us this year. They knew what it takes, that the competition is real and it's tough and nobody is going to give up.”
On four teams reaching the semifinals and how that impacts strategy through the week.
“I think this year we had the luxury of resting guys. I tried to have a plan. As long as you win, you stick with the plan. It's tough and we managed to win. It was scary, when you beat Tuscarora 5-4 and we needed that win. It helps that everyone had at least one game off. Ryan Benesch had two.”
On playing the first semifinal and having an extra four hours to recover and prepare for the final.
“I think four hours is huge. We're already doing what we do to get prepared while they're playing their game. They're at home, they have that advantage of a professional locker room with all the things you need to recover. But I think that four hours is huge. I think it was huge for us last year, too.”
[Ladner beat top-seeded Six Nations Rivermen in the semis in 2022 before facing the Akwesasne Bucks in the final.]
Thinking Outside the Box
Presidents Cup participants beyond the Prezzy
Caden Gulka, Edmonton Miners
It is not everyday that a player wins the Founders Cup and the Presidents Cup in the same year. Caden Gulka has the chance to do just that when the Miners face off against Ladner on Saturday at 7pm ET.
Gulka was a key contributor to the Edmonton Warriors Canadian Jr B championship, which wrapped up with a gold medal game win over the Akewsasne Thunder in Port Coquitlam, BC 13 days ago.
There was not a lot of time to rest before Gulka headed east with the Miners to seek a Canadian Sr B title to go with the Founders.
🥍 Snake Island kept their burgundy jerseys tucked away all week, only breaking them out in the playoffs. They wore white or black jerseys all week then today broke out perhaps the best looking jerseys at the tournament.
🥍 Speaking of style, the style of officiating is noticeably different than it was during round robin play. The refs were letting the players play all week but still making calls. In the playoffs, a lot more is being let go. Plenty of pushes that were called loose ball fouls in the round robin were treated simply as ball battles Friday. On a couple of occasions in each semifinal a player grabbed an opponent from behing and just yanked him out of a battle for possession and nary a call was made. The teams that adjust best to the different standards have the best chance of winning.
🥍 Sam Clare is a terrific player and is having an excellent tournament; he rarely has moments of klutziness on the floor. So it makes those of us who are nowhere near as good as he is feel some kinship when something happens what happened to Clare fairly early in the first semi. He had the ball near centre and went to shovel a pass to a forward coming off the bench with no pressure anywhere in site from Snake Island. The handle got away from Clare and he wound up tossing his whole stick instead of just the ball. It's okay to laugh at the minor miscue since there were no negative consequences, and Clare went on to have another good game and play a significant role in his team reaching the gold medal game.
🥍 What a huge play by Tyler Halls with 2:16 left in the first semi. A bit of a broken play wound up with Zach Herreweyers in the slot in a dangerous shooting position. Halls reacted quickly enough to chop down on Herreweyers' stick from behind as he was about to shoot. The Pioneers wound up winning, but at the time it was a potentially game-saving defensive play by Halls.
🥍 People talk all the time about the war of attrition that the Presidents Cup is. Snake Island had to go out without their star goalie, the injured Nick Damude, and still were in a highly competitive game right to the end. Pioneers coach Ross Frehlick was not surprised in the least. “They never give up,” he said. “Those guys are warriors.”
🥍 Both semifinals were thrillers. One notable element was that the quality of play was very high. Often, towards the end of the tournament, fatigue and injuries combine to cause some fairly ragged lacrosse in the playoff games. Not today. All four teams played well. Players were occasionally slow to get to the bench and it was evident that everyone has gone through the grinder this week, but it was impressive how well they continued to perform.
🥍 Both goalies in the second semifinal were outstanding. Between them, MacLeod and Rose allowed just 7 goals through the first two periods. It was a testament to both the skill and the determination of the runners on both teams that they were able to combine for 8 goals in the third period alone.
🥍 Ryan Lanchbury is the tournament scoring leader heading into the final day. He has 11 goals and 27 assists for 38 points. Close on his heels are Triolo (24g/12a/36pts) and Levi Anderson (12g/24a/36pts) with mirror image stat lines.
🥍 After tomorrow's gold medal game, the Pioneers and Miners will have won five of the last six Presidents Cups between them. The Miners, then referred to as St. Albert, won three straight from 2016-2018. Ladner won last year. One of them will take the title this year. (Six Nations Rivermen won in 2015 and 2019; there was no tournament in 2020 or 2021 because of COVID-19).
🥍 The bronze medal game gets under way at 3pm ET, the gold medal at 7pm. You can watch both, as well as all of the games from the tournament in the archives, on the JVI Sports Network YouTube page.