For the second year in a row, the Blackfalds Silverbacks won’t be heading to Senior C lacrosse provincials.
The team was swept 2-0 by the Edmonton Warriors in their best-of-three Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) north division finals over the weekend at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena.
The team fell 12-10 during Game 1 Saturday night, but it was Sunday afternoon’s game that was the heartbreaker for the ‘Backs, falling within the final seven minutes of the third period for a 7-4 loss.
“Going into the last seven minutes of the game, it was 3-3…then it was penalty trouble in the third period,” said Andrew Munden of the Silverbacks. “As soon as we got penalties, they got open shots, buried their chances and we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The Silverbacks came out of the gate hard, with defenceman Brendan Luft scoring 32 seconds into the game. Riley Rockarts, playing in just his third game back after returning from injury, added a second goal 15 seconds later to put the home team up 2-0.
Kyle Groat got one back for the Warriors about two minutes later, but Rockarts responded shortly afterwards to regain the two-goal lead. Cale Allen scored another for the Warriors prior to the midway mark of the period when scoring settled down, and the home team went into the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.
In the second period, both goaltenders put on a show, stopping all offence except a game-tying goal at the 16:17 mark by the Warriors Peter Grigg.
It was the third period, however, when Shaun Wilhelm let loose, scoring a hat trick in about three minutes of play to give his team a 6-3 lead.
“He’s the kind of guy you can’t leave open. You can’t let him have an open shot on the power play or he’ll capitalize,” Munden said. “He was named the offensive player of the year for our league – that speaks for itself. Don’t leave him wide open.”
Alex Colbert added another goal for the warriors, and Logan Sinclair scored once more for the Silverbacks, but there’d be no last-minute heroics to save their season and push the series to Game 3.
Still, aside from being able to capitalize on their shots, Munden said there wasn’t more the team could’ve done.
“The team played stellar,” he said. “It’s just tough we could only muster three goals – not to say our offence wasn’t great, but their goalie was better.”
Shots were 46-44 at the end of the game, and Munden gave both goalies credit, including Noah Zimmer, who was a Tier I Olds fill-in as the ‘Backs goaltender was away with work.
While it’s the second consecutive year the Silverbacks won’t vie for the provincial title, however, the team still considers it to be a successful season overall.
“Compared to last year when we didn’t even make playoffs, it’s definitely a bounce-back year for us,” he said. “It’s obviously not the way we wanted to finish, but we’re still rebuilding. Hopefully next year we can come back and compete to win.”
With the formation of the Senior B team last season, some of the Silverbacks top-end players moved up to join the more difficult league, meaning they haven’t quite had the same pool of players they have in previous years.
That’s something they’ll work on in the offseason, along with conditioning.
“One thing we haven’t done in the past is have guys hitting the gym and having guys come into the new season actually in shape instead of getting off the couch,” Munden said. “We had quite a few guys this year who stepped up and got in better shape and it was very noticeable, especially in the last few games. We need to get more guys taking better care of themselves.”
They’ll start preparing in January for next season, with winter conditioning. Munden says anyone over the age of 21 from across Central Alberta is invited to join them. More information can be found on the league website at www.rockymountainlax.com.