The ice in the SLS Centre's hockey rink is melted, which means another summer of competitive lacrosse is underway in Cochrane.
The town's local junior B team, the Rockyview Silvertips, have already played their first four matches of the 2023 Rocky Mountain Lacrosse (RMLL) season, with mixed results thus far.
At the end of April, the U21 squad travelled east to Regina for a three-game series against the Queen City Kings on April 29 and 30. Despite playing three games in the span of 26 hours, Silvertips head coach Tyler Waycott said his players fared well with the adversity of opening their season after such a lengthy road trip.
The Silvertips won two of their three outings in Regina, defeating the Kings 11-9 in their first game and 12-9 in their third. Those two victories sandwiched an 11-4 loss in game two of the three-game series.
“To come out of Regina with two wins and a loss, we’re happy with that,” Waycott said.
According to Rockyview's head coach, the Silvertips were still missing some key players during the trip to Saskatchewan's capital. A few players were still not back from university, while a few others were still trying out for junior A teams in western Canada.
“It was a long trip, but a great trip,” he said. “I was very proud of how our players bonded and how they conducted themselves. We got a lot of positive feedback everywhere we went, when we were eating, travelling, or doing our thing in Regina. So it was a great opening weekend, not just on the floor but off of it as well.”
Back home in Cochrane this week, the Silvertips faced off against the unbeaten Fort Saskatchewan Rebels on May 13. While it was a close, back-and-forth kind of game at the SLS Centre, Waycott said Rockyview ultimately couldn't generate the Rebels' first loss of the year, as the visitors departed with a 16-14 victory to spoil the 'Tips' home-opener.
Nonetheless, Waycott said the heavy offensive output in three of their four games to date show the Silvertips are firing on all cylinders.
“It was 16-14, but it was 3-3 after the first and 10-10 after the second, so just a really back-and-forth game against a really good Fort Saskatchewan team,” he said. “We have to give them credit because they have some talented players. I was happy with our young group for keeping pace in that game. All in all, it’s been a good start to the year.”
This year's Silvertips roster is very much a rebuild project, as the U21 team saw some important members of the organization age out of the junior league last year. Key departures included captain and top goalscorer Nolan Oakey, fellow forward Noah Simonelli, JD Halcro, Noah Deitz, and Patrick Morrow, among others.
Waycott acknowledged that with the departures of those players, there are some big shoes to fill in the Silvertips' line-up this season. But he said he's liked what he's seen already, touting the impact of players like Owen MacCarthy and Chase Penner.
“We’ll give every player every opportunity to fill those shoes as best as they can,” he said. “Some of the guys who were young last year are another year more mature, and got to learn from that veteran presence we had in our line-up. I think we’re starting to see that. Even in our first four games, you look at Owen MacCarthy. He’s tearing it up right now. He had three goals called back on Saturday night in our loss.”
Now sporting a 2-2 record, the Silvertips will be back in action this Thursday night when they travel to Calgary to face the Mountaineers. Opening face-off is set for 9 p.m. at the Acadia Recreation Complex.
Waycott said the coaches' focus will be split between offence and defence as the 'Tips prepare for Thursday night's tilt.
“[Our forwards] are finding their rhythm with being able to put the ball in the net fairly decently,” he said. “We want to keep building off of that and add some consistency to our offence.
“And on defence, we need to tighten up a few areas. We want to start addressing those early-season holes in our defence.”
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