Pilon prepared to produce
Kealan Pilon’s days with the St. Catharines Athletics are numbered.
The 22-year-old forward is well aware his junior career could be over as early as this weekend if things don’t go as planned for the A’s during the second round of games at the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League regular season tournament in Oakville.
“Throughout this week after the 2-2 start, we now realize it’s go time,” Pilon said. “These could be the last four games of my career so now it really resonates. I think it’s a good thing too because of that sense of urgency we have and I think we all know it, even if we don’t talk about it.
“We all know these could be the last four so I think we’ll be coming out firing on all cylinders.”
The A’s split four games last weekend, dropping their final two games after a strong start. The top two teams in each conference advance to the semifinals set for Saturday, Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. followed by the Ontario championship final at 9 p.m.
Brampton leads the Western Conference at 3-1 followed by Burlington (2-1-1), Six Nations (2-1-1), St. Catharines (2-2), Oakville (2-2) and KW (0-4).
In the East, Whitby and Mimico are tied at 3-1 each followed by Toronto (2-2), Orangeville (2-2) and Peterborough (0-3-1).
Pilon collected three goals and 11 points in the four games and was thrilled to be back in double blue after almost two full years away due to the COVID-pandemic.
“It felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen again and all my buddies came back too. It felt good to play the box game again. The goal is still the same so it felt good to be out there.”
The A’s were set to host the Minto Cup this year at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, but the pandemic put an end to the championship of Canadian Junior A lacrosse.
“It was all of our dreams and the opportunity to play again was a no-brainer for all of us,” Pilon said.
The A’s had a surprisingly tough time scoring goals last weekend and head coach Steve Toll realizes veterans such as Pilon, Alex Simmons, Carter Zavitz and Sam LeClair have to step up.
“They have to produce and they know this is their last chance,” Toll said. “There are only eight guys dressed on offence and we’re not really getting a lot of production out of the back door. We said we need 8-10 goals up front. Our defence has been really holding them that way.”
Pilon ran into some tough luck last weekend, hitting a couple of posts.
“Pilon always gets his chances inside and outside,” Toll said. “Realistically up front, Pilon is one of the last of my worries.”
Toll ran the A’s through some drills Thursday in the hopes of jump-starting the offence.
“We have to get inside and not settle for the outside shot and not settle for the shot we would take with 20 seconds on the shot clock when we can get that same shot with five-seconds left,” he said. “It’s about forcing and taking our time and wearing down the defence too.”
The A’s play Burlington at 1 p.m. and Brampton at 7 p.m. five-seconds On Sunday, the A’s conclude with a 3 p.m. game against KW and a 7 p.m. start versus Six Nations.
Pilon said playing two games a day was exhausting.
“The first game and the last game were toughest I found,” he said. “The first game was just getting back into it and the second game I felt fine with the adrenaline. It’s not the lungs that are burning up — we’ve all played throughout the year and the cardio is all right — but the legs had nothing left in them. They were dead. Everybody is going through it so it’s not an excuse but it definitely is difficult. We’re not 16 anymore.”
While the offence sputtered at times, goaltender Cam MacLeod came through with flying colours. The 22-year-old Halton Hills native played all four games and more than held his own.
“He maybe had a spell of about seven bad minutes and that was it,” Toll said. “He was unbelievable and went beyond expectations of the coaching staff and management. He was unreal and the reason we were 2-0 and the reason we were in both games Sunday.
“He saved our bacon and he bailed us out and we didn’t bail him out. They know they owe him one.”
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