Rookie forward impresses
Alex Gaston did his best to leave a good impression when he showed up at training camp with the St. Catharines Spartans.
The 16-year-old St. Catharines native knew the odds might be stacked against him cracking the lineup after playing midget last season, but Gaston was so impressive he gave the club no choice but to keep him.
So far this season, Gaston is proving his efforts in camp and pre-season were anything but a fluke with two goals and 10 points in his first two junior games.
“We had those pre-season games and it was a big upgrade, a big jump from midget for sure,” he said. “After those three games and our first regular season game, I felt pretty good and felt like I could play here if I worked as hard as I could every single game.”
The Spartans knew all about Gaston — assistant coaches Dustin Gatt and Tyler Warren had coached him in minor.
“He was on the radar with Tyler and Dustin for a long time,” head coach John Gatt said.
“I knew he was a player. Whether he could step up this year we weren’t really sure, but he proved himself when he came to our training camp before Christmas. He was very exciting to watch and people that didn’t know very much about him were asking about him.”
At 5-foot-8 and about 145 pounds, Gaston relies on his speed.
“For his size, he’s very creative and he gets in and out of tight spaces with that speed,” John Gatt added. “Lacrosse isn’t built with a lot of big guys, it’s a lot of guys with lot of heart and talent and speed. It’s a good mix.”
Gaston admits it’s a big jump from midget to junior B.
“The defenders and much bigger and stronger,” he said. “(I use) speed and quickness to try to move the ball quickly and use my feet as much as I can.”
Still, he admits it can be a little intimidating looking across the floor at an opponent several inches taller with many more pounds on his frame.
“I notice that so I just tell myself I should be quicker than them so I will just use my speed to get around them,” he smiled.
Gaston has quickly emerged as a playmaker.
“I just try to create space for my teammates and try to draw the double (team) to make that pass and draw an extra guy to me to get a teammate open,” he said. “If I know I have a shot, I’ll take it.”
Gaston attends Hill Academy in Vaughn after he was spotted at a Team Ontario tryout last year.
“It’s awesome. You have to get asked to go. Everyone is a top-end athlete, either a lacrosse or hockey player,” he said.
Gaston is able to work out daily at Hill in an effort to beef up.
“I’m eating protein as much as I can just to try and gain that extra weight,” he said.
The Spartans, who are off to an 0-3 start, have a tough task ahead of them this week as they host Elora (5-0) Friday at 8 p.m. and Six Nations (6-0) Sunday at 7 p.m.
“I was just hoping after not a strong year last year we could produce a bit more offence and get the boys going,” Gaston said. “I hope we can get a win tomorrow. It would be awesome. Once the boys start rolling, we’ll be good.”
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