Miners rich in talent
Senior B lacrosse team adds more depth for playoff success
Saturday, May 10, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Miners are digging deeper to return to nationals after a two-year absence.
Last year in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League provincial playoffs the senior B team bowed out in the semifinals and the year before lost the final after going 2-4 at both the 2010 and 2011 Presidents’ Cup as the Alberta champion.
“We’ve identified the major problems regarding why we’ve been unsuccessful in our previous two Presidents’ Cups and the previous two provincial (playoffs): injuries, commitment and depth,” said head coach Vay Diep. “It really comes down to depth and we have more depth as well as more talent this year.”
The game plan is to run the floor with all cylinders firing in time for the playoffs.
“Our main goal and only goal has always been a national championship but there are other goals that will get us there and it is to understand and play our systems every game,” Diep said. “We want to be learning now, fine-tuning in June and executing in July and August.”
After underachieving in the playoffs the last two years the Miners bolstered their lineup with a variety of players.
“We’re excited about our new additions and the draft picks. The acquisition via a trade of Darren Kinnear (left-hand offensive player from the Spruce Grove Slash rejoins the Miners’ organization) and adding John Lintz and Jarrett Toll from the Edmonton Rush are huge additions for us,” Diep said.
Lintz is a defensive transition player who also played senior A the last three summers for the Langley Thunder in the Western Lacrosse Association. Toll is an offensive righty and a defenceman for the Alberta Golden Bears hockey team.
“He is such a versatile player that he can play both ends of the floor,” Diep said.
The Miners’ draft picks (players born in 1992) include Brett LaRiviere – selected second overall in the north by the Slash before he was flipped to the Miners in a complicated deal involving Kinnear, Tom Buckley (No. 3, first round), Casey Foster (No. 9, third round), Matt Hamson (No. 12, fourth round) and Patrick Belair (No. 15, sixth round).
LaRiviere played defence for the junior B Tier 1 Edmonton Warriors, Buckley and Foster arrive from the junior A St. Albert Miners, Hamson is a product of the junior B Tier 1 St. Albert Crude and Belair hails from the Warriors.
The Miners have 29 players on the roster and the RMLL deadline for teams to declare their 25-man lineup is July 1. The miners plan to have their lineup solidified long before the deadline.
“Our mandate is to get down to 25 by June 1,” Diep said.
A solid mixture of veterans and rookies contributed in the season-opening 14-8 victory over the Okotoks Raiders on Sunday at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
The Miners outscored the visitors 7-4 in the first period and led 13-8 after two periods. They killed off two penalties while capitalizing three times on the power play.
“We played good enough to win,” Diep said. “The guys were hungry, especially with the new additions that we had in the lineup. They were playing to impress the new team. We’re also still in the stage of finalizing our roster so the message was whoever was in the lineup is playing to earn a position.”
Graedon Cornfield – the 2011 Harris Toth Award winner as the RMLL’s regular-season point leader with 66 in 31 games – racked up five goals and one assist. Kinnear, Lintz and Toll fired two goals apiece and Matt Hansen, Steve Tessarola and Chris Schmidt notched singles. Sean Reid chipped in with six assists and Toll had five helpers. Matt Hiebert was in net.
Not dressed because of previous commitments were captain Nate Schmidt – 2013 Harris Toth Award winner with 64 points in 14 games and the Miners’ top scorer last year with 25 goals and 57 points for third spot in the RMLL scoring race – and goaltender Dave Marrese.
Diep said Marrese, arguably the No. 1 shot stopper in the RMLL, will start in Saturday night’s home game against the Rockyview Knights. Start time is 8:30 p.m. at Northstar arena.
Diep believes the Airdrie-based Knights (bronze medallists at the 2012 Presidents’ Cup after beating the Miners in game four of the best-of-five provincial final), Calgary Mountaineers (fourth-place finishers at the 2013 nationals who eliminated the Miners in game four in the best-of five provincial semifinal last year) and Okotoks are the Miners’ main challengers in the six-team RMLL circuit for a berth at the Aug. 25 to 31 President’s Cup in Coquitlam, B.C.
Last year the Knights finished first in league play at 13-3, the Miners placed second at 11-5 and the Mountaineers were third at 10-6. The Raiders were a distant fifth at 3-12-1.
“The south teams will be very competitive. They had a strong junior draft. The players that were drafted are very highly skilled,” Diep said. “The south is improving very quickly. Last year you could see that with the draft they had.”
Wednesday the Slash visit the Spruce Grove Slash at 7:30 p.m. The Slash were 3-13 in 2013.