There was one team on the tip of everyone’s tongue as the 2009 Founders Cup tournament began. Hint: it wasn’t these guys.
And why would it have been?
Sure they finished the regular season first overall in Alberta with a nearly unfettered record of 19-1. And the clean sweep of the Edmonton Warriors for the league championship may have been additionally impressive, but come Founders Cup round robin time, they were just another speed bump on the Ontario rep’s road to glory. It didn’t matter how close they kept it or for how long. A loss is a loss, and 10-6 is a big one.
But if this was the Clarington Green Gaels’ year to win the Cup, somebody forgot to tell the Calgary Mountaineers.
The Mounties are a team of two-way terrors with an offensive depth chart that sags only under the strain of their scoring statistics. From Destin Seguin all the way down the floor to goaltender Jake Dietrich, this is a team that looked as though it had been specifically assembled to take on the best that Ontario had to offer. But make no mistake about it, this championship has been years in the making. A nine-player core has been together on the Mountaineers since 2006.
“I do think that the fact that this team has been together for so long, and that we aren’t two separate squads as offense-defense teams seem to be, contributes to how we play so well together,” says Mounties forward Sam Bacon, a 36-point scorer in the regular season. “Also our coach knows who to put out in the right situations making us feel comfortable and able to perform at our best.”
Bacon along with Seguin, Matt Besplug, David Worbets and Steven Schorn led the Mounties in regular season scoring, topping their division as well. This invariably made the five of them marked men in the national tournament, but anyone at all familiar with the Calgary roster knows this didn’t have much effect on the final scores. The big five got to work taking on the responsibilities of the two-man game, creating valuable space and opportunities for their teammates who were prepared to step up in the clutch. And step up they did. Jesse Hunter, Thomas Bruton, Phil Chilakos and Cody Friesen combined for 44 points in the tournament.
“I believe they have been targets since day one and no matter what they continued to step up,” says Bacon. “They are great players and the fact that if you focus on shutting those guys down the next three players who step on the floor can do the same amount of damage. That’s what puts our team ahead of most other teams we face.”
The accolades obviously can’t begin and end with the offense, especially on a team that held the Clarington Green Gaels to four goals — a single-game output that was regularly achieved by players like Zach Palmer or Ryan Serville alone.
“Every player on our roster is solid on defense but I would say Fraser Grant is one of the big d-guys we can depend on. He is a big body and can push people around,” says Bacon. “Another stronger d-man would be Eric Hamilton who is more of an aggressive player and rarely misses getting a loose ball. We all pride ourselves on our defense and hard hitting which makes the other teams reluctant to go through the middle. I also have to mention Jesse Hunter in being one of the best stick checkers I’ve seen.
“Our goalies are both incredible and we knew in the back of our heads that if our press was to falter our goalies would stop the ball. Also having changed our defense in the finals, our tightly-packed defense held up because we knew that whoever it was could stop the outside shots. I think our goalies are a major strength of ours and without them I couldn’t say where we would be.”
For their in-net efforts, Tanner Serwatkewich was named a second team round robin All-Star while Dietrich was twice named player of the game for the Mounties, both times against Clarington. He was also named the game MVP in the championship where he made 53 saves.
In the Founders Cup final it didn’t seem to matter that the Mountaineers and Green Gaels were tied 3-3 after the first. And it probably wasn’t a concern to anyone who wasn’t on the floor when the best of the West were leading 6-4 after two. Clarington was a third period team and had been all tourney. All they needed was for the Mountaineers to make one mistake. To give just a little.
They never got it.
“I think we deserved more credit coming in but we also like the sort of underdog feeling,” says Bacon. “I think a lot of the other teams felt intimidated going into their games against Clarington but we knew we could beat them. Our first game we slipped up for 6 minutes and they scored 6 goals, we critiqued those mistakes we made and came up with a great game plan for them in the finals and executed it. That’s why we are the champions right now.”
It was a tournament fraught with controversy, from reffing to scheduling to standings. But if the myriad of complaints being lodged are for the good of the game, then the Calgary win is for the great of it. In doing what only two non-Ontarian teams have done before, the Mounties have earned every right to hold the Cup up high where the could’ves and should’ves have no chance to touch it. After all, a win is a win, and 8-4 is a big one.
Congratulations to Nick Albers, Sam Bacon, Matt Besplug, Austen Biggar, Thomas Bruton, Ryan Buchan, Phil Chilakos, Jake Dietrich, Cody Friesen, Fraser Grant, Mitch Grant, Eric Hamilton, Jesse Hunter, Steven Jarrell, Elliot Johnston, Travis Mizera, Trenton Roll, Steven Schorn, Destin Seguin, Tanner Serwatkewich, Dillon Stecyk, Brendan Tyrrell, Mike Tyrrell, Craig Warren and David Worbets as well as coaches Wayne Sutherland, Colin Risi, Rick Kerr and Mike Peltier and managers Jaye Bacon and Marnie Worbets, trainers Tara Collin and Brandy Bryson and ball boy (and future Mountaineer?) Sean Tyrrell.Ward began covering lacrosse for The Lacrosse Journal in 2005 and became its editor-in-chief a year later. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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