A’s heavy on offence
The St.Catharines Athletics head into the 2021 Ontario Junior Lacrosse League season with as much firepower up front as ever.
The A’s are loaded with offence led by Alex Simmons, Carter Zavitz and Colorado draft pick Sam LeClair on the right side, Kealan Pilon, Liam Ham, and Brayden Mayea are on the left, to go along with newcomer Jackson Webster and speedy veteran Mason Kamminga.
“We know we’re going to score some goals,” A’s general manager Jeff Chcoski said. “The right side is loaded up and the left is the best left side we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
A’s head coach Steve Toll concurred.
“I think realistically if you look at our roster the eight offensive guys we are going to dress are a pretty talented group,” he said. “They are definitely in the top three in the league. I would put them up there against any other top eight in the league from top to bottom.”
Simmons, Zavitz, LeClair, Pilon and Kamminga are known quantities for the A’s while Ham is a former Niagara IceDogs defenceman who played a handful of game for the club previously. Mayea, a Windsor native, played the 2019 season for the A’s and blossomed last season at High Point University in North Carolina.
“The year he had playing field lacrosse was unbelievable and we expect big things out of him,” Chcoski said.
Webster, a 19-year-old Georgetown native who attends Canisus College, was picked up from Barrie in the dispersal draft.
“If you talk to any coach, to a man they would say Jackson Webster has been the biggest surprise of camp,” Chcoski said.
On defence, captain Tom Whitty (Rochester) returns and will be aided by fellow pros Jon Kit (Philadelphia) and Tyler Halls (Vancouver), who was added in deal with Orangeville.
“He (Hall) has won a Minto Cup and Founders Cup in Orangeville,” Chcoski said. “He was a big pick up for us. He’s a 99 (birth date) and we wanted to solidify the back end a little bit.”
The A’s also added Reid Lowe in a deal with Brampton to provide further depth.
“We have some D guys we know but we’ll have three or four defenceman of the 10 who haven’t played for us before so it’s a brand new show and we’ll have to play it by ear,” Toll said.
In goal, holdover Austin Paddy has been slowed by a knee injury in camp but should be fine for the tournament, while newcomer Cam MacLeod, a veteran from Coquitlam, B.C., will get the nod in the opener.
The A’s take on Kitchener-Waterloo Saturday, July 24 at 3 p.m. in the first game of the three-week tournament. They play Brampton at 7 p.m. later that day, then square off versus Six Nations Sunday, July 25 at 3 p.m. and Oakville at 9 p.m. to conclude the first weekend of play. All games are being played at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville.
The tournament continues Saturday, July 31 when the A’s play Burlington at 1 p.m. and Brampton at 7 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 1, the A’s conclude with a 3 p.m. game against KW and a 7 p.m. start versus Six Nations.
Mimico, Orangeville, Peterborough, Toronto and Whitby will play each other in the East Division while St. Catharines, Brampton, Burlington, Kitchener-Waterloo, Oakville and Six Nationals comprise the West Division.
The semifinals (top two in each division) are set for Saturday, Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. followed by the Ontario championship final at 9 p.m.
Toll is eager to see his charges in game action.
“I know what we have but practising and playing games is totally different,” he said. “We have to stick with the guys we know early and if they don’t do their jobs early then we’ll have to go to different guys or the younger group and see what gives us the best chance to win.
“We have to put the best lineup we can on the floor every night and go from there. There are no times for bad games. The hard part is every team is in the same boat. No one has played a game in two years so it’s a live and learn process.”
The A’s have also selected a 20-player taxi squad that will participate in a Young Guns Tournament August 6-8. Players from this roster may be added to the main roster as needed.
2021 St. Catharines Athletics
1. Austin Paddy
2. Carter Zavitz (A)
3. Tom Whitty (C)
5. Cameron Pack
6. Alex Simmons (A)
9. Kealan Pilon (A)
14. Tanner Vail
15. Brayden Mayea
16. Mike Wilson
17. Liam Ham
19. Owen Friesen
23. Jackson Trent
27. Conner Watson
33. Jackson Webster
37. Jon Kit
40. Sam LeClair
42. Peyton McIntosh
43. Felix Cote
44. Jacob McMillan
50. Mason Kamminga
71. Tyler Halls
88. Aidan Buis
90. Blair Pachereva
91. Reid Lowe
00. Cam MacLeod
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