For the first time this millennium, an Abbotsford lacrosse team advanced to a provincial gold-medal game.
The Abbotsford Warriors Peewee B lacrosse team snapped a 21-year drought in Richmond last weekend, catching fire at the right time to go on a Cinderella-run to the finals.
Warriors head coach Brad Connolly said it was a memorable run for his team.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a team with so much heart,” he said. “There were a number of times throughout the regular season and playdowns where the boys could have given up and called it a day, but they didn’t and just fought harder to get the job done. Their grit and determination was unbelievable.”
Connolly said the achievement was impressive considering the smaller size of the Abbotsford Lacrosse Association compared to teams like Maple Ridge or New Westminster. The club finished in the middle of the standings in the regular season, and then had to go through three rounds of playdowns to advance to the provincials.
During the playdowns, Abbotsford had to clutch up and win two straight against Burnaby to avoid elimination, and then also upset top-ranked Chilliwack to qualify for the provincials.
The Warriors opened the provincials on July 22 with a 7-6 loss to the Juan de Fuca Whalers, but then bounced back later that day against Maple Ridge. The game went back and forth, with Maple Ridge tying the game in the final few minutes, but the Warriors scored with 17 seconds left to win 7-6.
After another win on July 23, the Warriors had to wait for other results to see if their season was continuing. Lady Luck was on their side, and the Warriors ended up in second place in their pool, meaning they would play Alberni Valley in the final four.
Connolly said the gold-medal drought being broken was looming, but his team was calm before the semi-final.
“The crazy thing was I think the coaches and fans were more nervous than the team was,” he said. “I remember the boys were so calm and focused in the dressing room and it carried over into the game. The boys just dominated from start to finish. The goaltending and defence was outstanding and scoring came from the whole team. I don’t think they knew what hit them. After the whistle, we looked up and the score was 11-2 for us and we just couldn’t believe we had done it.”
The win meant Abbotsford would face Chilliwack in the final, and the two teams battled back and forth early. Chilliwack opened with a 2-0 lead, but Abbotsford tied the game. In the end, Chilliwack proved to be a little too much for the Warriors, who fell 9-7 in the gold-medal game.
Abbotsford’s Evan Matheson received the Warrior Fair Play Award and was also named a Peewee B all-star at the tournament. Individual game Most Valuable Players at provincials were: Liam Connolly, Cailen Hamilton, Hayden Kampf and Oscar Becher.
Despite the loss, Connolly said his team grew a lot from the experience.
“It would have been nice to finish with a win, but I wouldn’t have changed anything,” he said. “This team accomplished something pretty remarkable and everyone contributed to our success. We are all so proud of them.”