BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Penalty troubles and inconsistent work ethic were key factors in the rocky start to the 2016 Central Alberta Lacrosse League season for the Blackfalds Warriors Midget B lacrosse team.
The Warriors kicked off the season with a trio of matchups over the course of the weekend, coming out with a 1-2 record.
“We have an effort, but it drops off usually in the middle of the game and then picks up a little bit closer to the end,” said Warriors’ Head Coach Wendell Jones of his team’s efforts over the weekend.
Playing a fairly hectic schedule that included three games in three nights to start the season, the Warriors began the 2016 campaign on the road against the Sylvan Lake Buccaneers on Friday night in Red Deer, falling 10-2 to the league front runners. The next afternoon, Saturday, the Warriors played host to the Bucs at the Blackfalds Multiplex for their home opener, but were unable to pick up their first victory of the season, dropping a 9-2 decision to their Red Deer-area rivals.
Jones said one of the main reasons for the Warriors’ woes in those first two games was the number of penalties that they took.
“For some reason we can’t stay out of the penalty box and that hurts us,” he noted, adding the team spent a significant amount of time down a man in the first two outings.
“When you take 46 minutes in penalties, it’s staying out of the box. When you’re sitting in the penalty box, you don’t get enough floor time for everybody else. By the end of the game, our players that we would normally use couldn’t play anymore. They were too tired.”
Reduced floor time and being forced to leave their penalty killers out on the floor for long periods of time wore down the Warriors’ defenders and Sylvan Lake was able to take advantage, outscoring their rivals 19-4 over the two games.
Jones said the key to overcoming those penalty troubles is keeping a cool head during the game.
“It’s okay to be aggressive but at the same time everything’s got to be done in control. Lacrosse is a controlled game. If you go out and you lose your head, you’ll pay for it. And we have paid for it. The two games that we played against Sylvan Lake, we had high penalty minutes and they took advantage of it,” he said.
“Once you start sitting in the penalty box and everybody starts getting upset and angry and fighting with each other, it just goes downhill from there. It’s all a matter of being able to control themselves. They’re young men and they get caught up in the heat of the battle. It only takes seconds for the ball to be in the back of our net and Sylvan Lake is a really good team.”
The Warriors seemed to take this advice to heart on Sunday afternoon when they made the trip out to Three Hills for a meeting with the Kneehill Bulldogs to finish off their weekend triple-header.
Blackfalds stayed out of the penalty box, for the most part, and managed to come out with a 10-4 victory.
“When we’re even strength, we move the ball well. We can play with anybody. With the ability and the talent that we have in our first and second year players, I feel that we can play with anybody,” Jones said.
Despite the win, Jones stressed the importance of staying focused and in control in the future.
“We had a little team meeting this weekend and we discussed the things that we’ve been doing. The boys all know. When we discussed it, they were the ones who were saying what our issues are. So it’s just a matter of being able to correct them amongst themselves and things will get better.”
He also noted that while the ultimate goal for the team is to get to provincials in July by winning the league, the team is currently focused on the next game.
“Provincials is always someone’s goal, we discussed it a little bit. But you have to get through the regular season and through playoffs before you really start looking that far ahead. To me it’s just game by game with these boys because they are boys, they’re young men and you never know what you’re going to get from day to day,” he said.
The Warriors next game is a road meeting with the Red Deer Chiefs Midget 1 team on Friday night in Red Deer. The game gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at the Kinex Arena.