There was no fairy-tale ending for the Red Deer TBS Rampage at the 2014 Founders Cup in Halifax, N.S.
After crushing Quebec in their final round robin game on Saturday to stay alive in the Canadian Lacrosse Association Junior B National Championships, they were eliminated from medal contention after the Manitoba Blizzard clipped the Saskatchewan S.W.A.T. 11-10.
In the fifth place game on Sunday, the S.W.A.T. rallied to beat the Rampage 14-11, scoring nine goals in the third period as Red Deer ran out of gas.
“The boys put in a ton of effort right to the end, but I think we just ran out of physical and mental energy in the third period,” said Rampage head coach Ron Just, noting they had a 9-5 lead after two periods. “Once the momentum started to shift, there was too much tiredness to fight through it.”
Conner Hartley scored three goals and two assists for Red Deer in the loss to Saskatoon while Spencer Lee had three goals and one assist. Ryan Beatson had two goals and an assist, Dawson Reykdal one goal and four assists and Mitch Vellner and Reid Swier a goal and two assists each.
They could not, however, stop Saskatchewan’s top three players as Baden Boyenko had three goals and eight assists, Steven Toporowski had one goal and nine assists and Rhett Handley four goals and two assists.
In the end it was their first game, a 10-9 loss to host Nova Scotia, that killed them.
The two teams wound up tied for fourth at the end of the round robin with six points each, but because Nova Scotia won their head-to-head game, they moved on to the bronze medal match up.
“Once you lose a game in this tournament, you’re really scrambling to get those points back,” said Just. “You have to expend a lot more energy in every game after that and it puts a lot more pressure on you.
“It all started there and we weren’t able to burry the ball at the biggest times.”
Despite not coming back to Red Deer with a medal, and finishing behind the other two Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League teams in the tournament, Just is proud of the way his team played. They tied the silver medal winning Seneca Chiefs 8-8, who routed every other team they played, and never quit against the four-time-champion Six Nations Rebels, despite losing 12-5. They were one of the few teams to really frustrate the Rebels, to the point where their coach was thrown out of the game.
“I’m just so proud of our boys for showing up and not really knowing what a Founders was about and responding to the challenge and competing every minute,” said Just. “The guys learned so much, it’s something they’re going to be able to take back when they help coach young kids in Central Alberta and it’s something the returning players will be able to bring back next year. I would like a different result, obviously, but it was an important week for Red Deer lacrosse.”
Just says he likely will not be back next season as coach and there is the chance that assistant coach Scott Gresham moves on to a junior A team, but he says it is important that there is some continuity on the bench as the franchise attempts to build on what the history they made this year.
“When we started down this path four years ago, it wasn’t to have a flash in the pan opportunity to go to a national championship, it was because a few of us truly believed that the quality of lacrosse player in Central Alberta is worthy of competing at the national level, and we all still believe that and we’re all going to be working to make that happen,” said Just. “It’s time now some of the players who have graduated from our program the last four years to step up and start getting involved.”
• The Six Nations Rebels beat the Seneca War Chiefs 14-7 to win their fourth straight Founders Cup. Nova Scotia beat the Manitoba Blizzard 11-4 for the bronze medal … Calgary Junior Mountaineers pick Sean Tyrrell was the Rampage’s lone tournament all-star after scoring 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in five games.