Ladner Pioneers are headed back to the President’s Cup national senior “B” lacrosse championship for a second straight year.
A semi-final series sweep of the Coquitlam Adanacs coupled with the Nanaimo Timbermen eliminating the Victoria Eagles in four games secured their trip to nationals. The tournament will take place from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2 with the Timbermen hosting teams from across the country.
Ladner and Nanaimo will still have to square off for the West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association championship but the rivals have agreed to play just a best-of-three series to limit travel and the risk of injuries. Game one goes Wednesday in Nanaimo and the teams head to Sungod Arena in North Delta on Saturday night (7 p.m.) If needed, game three would be played on Aug. 14 back in Nanaimo.
The shortened league final is just another tick on a checklist for a Pioneers team that seemingly faced an uphill climb a month ago.
Ladner was sitting just one point out of fifth place after being swept by the Timbermen in a home-and-home series. However, they methodically took care of business, winning their final four games, including pivotal contests against Coquitlam and Victoria. Nanaimo also helped its cause by beating the same teams in the final two weeks of the regular season, opening the door for Ladner to finish second.
That provided an opening round bye and semi-final match-up with Coquitlam, a team it had swept in the regular season (3-0-0).
Along the way, GM and head coach Ross Frehlick bolstered his roster with late season signings of Pete McFetridge, Dylan Lacroix, Eli Golbrecht and goaltender Brodie MacDonald. McFetridge and MacDonald are National Lacrosse League veterans. Golbrecht plays in the Major Lacrosse League with Denver.
“Getting Brodie was huge because it fixed our goaltending,” said Frehlick. “That’s what really put us over the top. Suddenly, we had the best goaltender in the league.”
MacDonald won both his starts in the Coquitlam series, surrendering just 10 goals. Zach Wickett picked up the other win in net and will be called upon at nationals, given the condensed schedule of games. Ladner could potentially play nine games in eight days.
The Pioneers would certainly love to defend their WCSLA title against a Timbermen team they have yet to beat this season in three tries, however, they can’t help looking beyond the finals either.
Even though the nationals are in B.C., the tournament will still cost the club an estimated $20,000 to cover accommodations and other expenses. An upcoming team meeting will determine how many players intend on staying the entire week in Nanaimo or return home on some days. The Pioneers will be playing one game per day with the exception of a doubleheader on Aug. 29.
“That’s what we need to figure it out,” added Frehlick. “Ideally, we want everyone staying the whole week there but there could be work commitments or other things.”
They are potential issues Frehlick is thrilled to be dealing with, especially with where his team was standing a month ago.
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