Seven lacrosse games in four days taxed the physical limits of the Prince George Posse, but it was well worth it.
Playing in the 16U A2 provincial box lacrosse championship two weekends ago in Port Coquitlam, the Posse came up one goal short in the medal round, losing bronze 6-5 to Coquitlam, but the experience gained in that four-day tournament will come in handy for their next challenge this week – the BC Summer Games.
The Posse will form the core of the team that will represent Zone 8 (Cariboo-Northeast) in the eight-team Summer Games tournament that starts Friday at the Kin Centre, one of 18 sports events going on in and around the city this weekend.
Backed by the addition of players from Fort St. John and Quesnel, the Zone 8 squad is loaded with talent. All it lacks is game experience, which makes them the obvious underdogs taking on the best from lacrosse powerhouses in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Thompson-Okanagan. Those select teams are drawn from rep teams in the more populated areas of the province, and they have geography on their side that allows them the luxury of league play during lacrosse season against teams of similar calibre.
Isolated six or eight hours away from their closest opponents, there is no league in northern B.C. and there were few travel opportunities this summer to put the Posse/Zone 8 team to the test, with local lacrosse associations leery of planning big tournaments under the pall of COVID uncertainty. But they still managed to win three of their provincial games and the none of their four losses were blowouts.
“Honestly, we could have won the whole thing,” said Posse/Zone 8 head coach Jeff Moleski. “We lost by a goal in the semis (5-4 to Vancouver)and lost by a goal in the bronze-medal game too. It was a long hard-fought series, we played seven games in four days. We had only two (tournaments) and we didn’t play a game for a month-and-a-half prior to provincials, so it was hard.
“It was hard to keep the kids motivated. You practice to play, and when the games don’t come it makes it hard. There were hardly any tournaments this year because nobody kind of knew what was going on, and with logistics we had nobody to play. We’re strictly limited to tournament play.”
Hosting the BC Summer Games gives the guys from Cariboo-Northeast a once-in-a lifetime chance to play a tournament on home turf. Moleski said he tried to organize a bantam tournament a few years ago with the same group of players and just two teams signed up.
“The Lower Mainland teams don’t like to travel so they’re kind of forced to this week,” he chuckled. ”It’s going to be a good experience and it will really test the boys’ skill level. They’ll see some teams that pay some pretty fantastic lacrosse. The Island team will be the frontrunner, I think, and the Vancouver teams will be very strong, and we’ll have to be at our best to compete.”
Cariboo-Northeast has 17 runners and two goalies. Noah Lee and Austen Turner have joined the team from Quesnel, while Gavin Adams, Griffin McCue and Kayden Raab are the Fort St. John reinforcements.
The Posse holdovers are Dalton Barwise, Kael Frederick, Logan Hauk, Jayden Larmand, Cashe Kaban, Everett Muratori, Keaton Nicholson, Nolan Vansickle, Wyatt Elias, Liam Hunter, Cole Malo (Vanderhoof), Jackson Moleski, Brady Mackay, and Cooper Ziler (Vanderhoof). Darcy Nicholson and Don Wittmeier are the assistant coaches.
Coach Moleski says this is the best team of 15- and 16-year-olds the Cariboo-Northeast zone has had in several years and that became obvious at the provincial tournament when seven of the Posse players were invited to junior A training camps.
Before he went on to a lengthy pro career in the National Lacrosse League, Moleski played box lacrosse in the 1998 BC Summer Games 24 years ago in Ridge Meadows and his Cariboo-Northeast team did not win a game.
“We got blown out n every game, the northern team typically does not do well,” he said. “But I know this year we probably have the best Summer Games team we’ve ever put together.
“I think we’re in the mix. Our defence is very strong. We’re inexperienced but our athleticism is up there with the best. We have the athletes and if we had the game time we’d be right up there with the best A1 team.”
All eight teams will practice Thursday at the Kin Centre from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. It will be the seventh time this season the Zone 8 team has practiced together.
Cariboo-Northeast opens the tournament at Kin 1 Friday at 9 a.m. against Fraser River. The Zone 8 team has two games at Kin 1 on Saturday, first at 9 a.m. against Vancouver Island-Central Coast, then at 2 p.m. against Vancouver-Coastal.
The other pool includes Kootenays, Thompson-Okanagan, Fraser Valley, and Team Indigenous.
The top teams in each pool after the preliminary round advance to the gold-medal game Sunday at 10 a.m. at Kin 1. The second-place finishers in each pool meet for bronze, also at 10 a.m. Sunday, at Kin 2. The two third-place finishers battle for fifth place Sunday at 8 a.m. at Kin 1 and seventh place will be decided in the same time slot at Kin 2.