Miners on the rocks
Two-time defending provincial senior lacrosse champions lose final to Rockyview Knights
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012 06:00 am
Grant Fuhr Arena – Five shorthanded goals in the third period by the Rockyview Knights buried the St. Albert Miners in Saturday’s series-clinching victory in the provincial senior B lacrosse final.
The Knights also struck twice on the power play and once at even strength in the decisive frame to knock off the two-time defending champions 12-7 in Spruce Grove.
“We don’t normally go for the shorthanded goals, we just try and kill the penalty and get back to business, five on five, but we played excellent offensively today. We moved the ball well and guys were getting open no problem,” said Knights captain Ron Morash.
Two of the Miners’ three goals in the third were scored with the man advantage.
“When you’re losing that special teams battle you’re not going to win games,” said Miners captain Nate Schmidt.
Game four in the best-of-five playoff was deadlocked at four goals apiece after two periods, when the roof caved in on the Miners.
“We were right with them and then it just got away from us,” Schmidt said. “With the short bench today I think our legs just got a little heavy in the third and they just beat us by a couple of quick steps on those shorthanded plays.”
Injuries and player absences sunk the Miners, who dressed three junior B affiliates and were short a runner in game four.
The Miners’ home floor at Northstar Hyundai Arena was also unavailable because ice was getting installed.
“It’s been a tough weekend for us. We found out our goalie had a concussion and we had only 14 of our regular runners today,” Schmidt said. “We battled through a lot of adversity. It’s been tough but we worked our asses off and did everything we could.”
All-star netminder Dave Marrese didn’t dress last weekend after suffering a concussion in the series opener in Airdrie. In game one, the Knights rattled their second shot off Marrese’s chin, but the practice goalie for the Edmonton Rush managed to play both games – losses of 8-7 and 10-9 in extra periods – before getting checked out.
Marrese said Tuesday he is feeling better and has been cleared to resume light activities. The Spruce Grove Slash, the host team for the Presidents’ Cup national championship, have asked Marrese to play for them at the Aug 27 to Sept. 3 tournament at Grant Fuhr Arena.
Marrese’s backup, Chris Standing, was between the pipes in game four and Friday’s 8-5 win in Spruce Grove. His backup in both games was a junior B call-up.
Standing’s strong showing in game three and Schmidt’s four goals, including three on the power play, prevented the Knights from sweeping the series.
Chris Schmidt, Jordan Cornfield, Graedon Cornfield and affiliate Brent Rayner scored and Jarrett Toll added three assists.
“Chris Standing had an outstanding game,” said captain Schmidt, who broke a 4-4 tie with the only goal in the second period. “It really was a team effort.”
The Miners capitalized four times on the power play and the Knights scored at even strength.
“We knew we couldn’t get penalties against them. That’s how they scored on us in the regular season,” Morash said of the Knights’ 11-7 and 9-7 victories over the Miners in league play.
In game four the Knights started Geoff Rainsford in net instead of their No. 1 shot stopper, Alex Coutts, a second team all-star at last year’s national as a pick-up by the Miners.
A win by the Miners would have forced a fifth and deciding game Sunday in Airdrie.
“We didn’t want to play that game,” Morash said. “We knew we had to go hard today and leave it all on the floor if we were going to come out with the win. Everybody was on the same page and fired up in the dressing room to get it done.”
The Knights opened up a 3-1 lead in the first before Tyler Douglas scored with 32 seconds left in the period.
In the second, Sean Reid of the Miners knotted the count at four apiece.
The opening two minutes of the third was highlighted by a number of big saves by Standing and Rainsford.
The Knights jumped ahead to stay with two quick shorties to break the 4-4 tie.
Power-play markers 28 seconds apart by the Knights with Jason Riley in the penalty box for roughing and interference made it 8-5.
The Miners kept chipping away at the lead, and pulled to within one on Graedon Cornfield’s four-on-three power play tally with 11:03 to play.
The Knights sealed the deal with two shorties in a 21-second span to lead 10-7 with 5:52 remaining.
“I’ve got to give them credit; they are a hell of a team. We knew we would be in for a battle and that’s exactly what it was,” Morash said. “We had to dig deep and hold tough. It was just a great effort on both ends of the floor.”
Last year the Knights lost the fifth and deciding game in the final in St. Albert after dropping the first two games in the series on the road.
“This is a good sweet moment right now. I consider them probably our toughest rival,” said Morash, the 34-year-old Knights defenceman. “The difference this year is we have quite a few new players and everyone is healthy.”
Chris Schmidt, Jordan Cornfield, Rayner and Nate Schmidt also scored in game four and Toll had three assists.
In league play four wins and seven points separated the first-place Knights and third-place Miners.
The two losses in Airdrie to start the series marked the third straight year the Miners failed to win a road game in the final.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose, especially to a team we’ve battled hard against all season, but we can hold our heads high because we had a good season. It’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow but hopefully they go on and represent Alberta really well at the Presidents’ Cup,” said captain Schmidt, 24, the Harris Toth Award winner as the league’s top scorer with 28 goals and 64 points in 14 games.