The St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics first round playoff opponent is a familiar one. For the third time in four years, the Athletics will meet the Six Nations Arrows in the opening round of the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse Association playoffs.
The previous two series have been sweeps. The Athletics last season, and the Arrows in 2016.
St. Catharines had their best regular season in nearly a decade finishing the 2019 campaign at (15-5) good for third place in the 11-team junior A loop.
The Athletics also featured the stingiest defence, allowing a league low 107 goals.
“We’re very happy with how the regular season went,” said second year head coach, and A’s all-time leading scorer Steve Toll.
“We played very good, consistent, lacrosse.”
And perhaps consistency will be the key for St. Catharines during this, there, latest playoff run.
The Arrows finished the regular season at (11-9).
“Six Nations is very dangerous team that is well coached and I’m sure last year, us beating them, is in the back of their minds,” Toll explained. “We can’t underestimate anyone in this league.”
The Athletics feature a veteran laden squad led by captain and current Toronto Rock defender Latrell Harris. Harris, still eligible for junior lacrosse, has already played three years of pro with the Rock.
Nick Damude is a rock between the pipes, sporting a league best 5.29 goals against average.
Up front, the A’s featured five players with over 40 points including team leading scorer Kealon Pilon with 34 goals and 81 points – good enough for fourth overall in league scoring.
Alex Simmons is considered one of the premier offensive threats in Canada and picked up 46 points in just eight games played this season.
At the other end of the floor, Travis Longboat led the Arrows offense during the regular season with 57 points.
Meantime, former Athletic Troy Holowchuk saw the majority of action in goal for Six Nations, sporting a (6-8) record in 15 games played.
The Athletics took game 1 in the best of 5 series Wednesday night at home with a 10-7 victory. The Arrows actually led the game 6-3 in the second period before the A’s rallied. Smithville’s Simmons scored the hat-trick and six points for St. Catharines who was outshot 41-35 overall, while Pilon added one goal and three assists in the win.
Game 2 was Thursday night on Six Nations with game 3 back at Jack Gatecliff Arena Sunday night. Game time is 7 pm.
Toll and general manager Jeff Chcoski know this season is an important year for the organization as 10 players will graduate at the end of this playoff run.
The ultimate goal is a trip to the 2019 Minto Cup – the Canadian Junior A Lacrosse Championships – in Langley, British Columbia come August.
“The key for us is to play our game, and don’t let whomever we’re playing get us rattled,” added Toll.
“Like our shirts say (and the team has been all season) #EarnedNotGiven”
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.