A’s primed for playoffs
The St. Catharines Athletics surpassed expectations with their best regular season in six years with a 13-7 record, good enough for third place in the Ontario Lacrosse Association junior A standings.
Included in those 13 wins were a pair of victories over the defending Minto Cup champion Six Nations Arrows.
The A’s and Arrows square off beginning Wednesday in a best-of-five first round playoff series, but St. Catharines general manager Jeff Chcoski isn’t sure those two wins mean at whole.
“I don’t think it matters at this point,” Chcoski said. “The post-season is a whole different animal altogether and I think you start from zero and go from there.
“This is going to be a great test for our guys. Six Nations is rich in history. They have a lot of playoff experience and they are also the defending Minto Cup champs. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Athletics improved by five wins over last season and were second overall in the league in goals against.
The one thing the A’s are lacking is playoff experience.
“A lot of our guys haven’t had a lot of playoff experience the last few years. It’s so important to get their feet wet and get in there and see what it’s like to battle night after night and be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a loss and get ready to go again the next day,” Chcoski said.
“This is going to be a challenge because of all the experience Six Nations has. They probably have one quarter or half their team that won the Minto Cup last year.”
Chcoski and the organization resisted the temptation to fast-track their game plan and mortgage the future for the present.
However, seeing a chance to upgrade, the club did bring in role players Teddy Leggett and Trevor Stacey from Six Nations. As well, Niagara IceDogs defenceman Liam Ham has rejoined the team for the playoffs.
“When he decided to make his move back (to St. Catharines), it’s like getting another guy at the deadline. He looked good on Saturday,” Chcoski said of Ham.
That depth will come in handy with captain Latrell Harris gone for the first round to the World Field Lacrosse Championships.
“Those are huge shoes to fill in the first round. It’s going to take a group effort. We’re firm believers if someone goes down or is out, it’s next man up,” Chcoski said.
The A’s, who wrapped up their regular season with a 9-7 loss at Mimico Saturday, insist they aren’t just happy to be in the playoffs and won’t be satisfied with just competing.
“At this point, after the regular season we had, we’re going into the series looking for a win to advance to the second round and see who’s standing there,” Chcoski said. “We’re coming off a great regular season. I think we’re a little bit ahead of our curve. I give the boys a lot of credit for buying into the program and everything we had to offer and put it all together on the floor for us.”
Jeff Wittig had four goals in the final game while Carter Zavitz, Alex Simmons and Ham also scored.
Game 1 is Wednesday at Jack Gatecliff Arena at 8 p.m. Game 2 goes Thursday at Six Nations at 8 p.m. with Game 3 Sunday in St. Catharines at 7 p.m. Game 4, if necessary, is Monday, July 16 at Six Nations at 8 p.m. with Game 5 in St. Catharines Wednesday, July 18 at 8 p.m.
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