The Comox Valley Wild Bantam B box lacrosse team entered the 33rd annual Nanaimo Bantam Tournament with high hopes on the weekend of June 7-9, and found themselves with gold medals when it was all over.
The tournament started with a physical game against West Shore that saw both sides take a number of penalties and the game called short due to an unfortunate injury to one of the West Shore players.
The Wild proved to be the stronger team with strong penalty killing and aggressive checking. The power-play unit took advantage of early opportunities and the Wild wound up on top 5-2. Marshall Pay led the way with two goals while Levi Hoffman, Luke Hutchings and Jordan Dewhirst added the others.
The Wild then took on the Saanich Tigers and dominated the first two periods with tallies by Nathan Armstrong, Hoffman, Tanner Horvath, Braeden Hemingway, Pay and Kale Best with his first-ever goal in lacrosse.
Going into game three against Oceanside, the Wild knew a win would put them in the gold medal game on Sunday. “We knew we could have success against the Oceanside team…we have played them tough all year,” said head coach Warren Dickie. “We decided to turn up the pressure and force them to earn their way up the floor.”
This strategy worked as the Wild created many turnovers and cruised to another victory. This set up an interesting match-up against the Cowichan Thunder in Sunday’s final.
Cowichan defeated the Wild at home the previous week and felt confident they could take another game from the Wild to win the tournament. The Wild had other ideas and just 10 seconds into the game, Hutchings made a statement that the Wild were going to be a force to be reckoned with, scoring a goal off of a set play from the opening face-off.
Team captain Pay led the way with five goals to show why he can be the most dominating player in the league. He fought off numerous double teams and led his team to a convincing 13-8 victory.
The Wild showed excellent team play and moved the ball really well throughout the game. Highlights included the hidden ball goal by Pay from Hoffman and Keenan Toal’s backhander off a great feed by Levi Smith Lansdell. Brandon Playford and Andre Sutter both had excellent games in the final, and Carter Mulligan proved to be a physical presence.
“We are starting to put a lot of things together with the hopes that we peak at the right time,” said Dickie. “I am impressed with the play of our goalie Diego Such…he gets better every week and will be a difference maker come playoff time.
“We have a lot of unsung heros on this team, like Owen Shears, Axel Noringseth and Zach Toovey who work hard game in and game out. Geoffrey Preiss also stood out for us with his presence on the power play. They are a fun group to coach.”
The Wild followed up their gold medal win with two more league wins – 11-7 against Nanaimo and 9-4 against Victoria – to clinch first place in their division. They begin playoffs this weekend as the number one seed with the goal of clinching a berth to the Provincial championships in July.
– Comox Valley Wild Bantam B Lacrosse