Miners rock solid
St. Albert senior B lacrosse team 8-0 to start season
Saturday, Jun 14, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Miners continue their pursuit of perfection this weekend in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League.
Friday’s contest against the Edmonton Outlaws signalled the second half of the regular season for the undefeated second B team. The score from Bill Hunter Arena was unavailable at press time.
Sunday the Miners host the Calgary Mountaineers, the defending provincial champions and fourth-place finishers at the Presidents’ Cup. Game time is 2 p.m. at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time and hopefully we stay undefeated,” said captain Nate Schmidt, prior to Tuesday’s practice at Servus Credit Union Place. “At 8-0 we’re perfect right now but it’s going to put a target on our backs for sure in the league. People are going to be coming after us.”
In the RMLL’s outdated standings the Outlaws, last year’s provincial finalists, are listed at 2-4 and the Mountaineers are 3-3.
The eighth win in a row for the Miners was 13-7 against the Mountaineers last weekend in Calgary.
“We’ve had a close game with the Outlaws (9-6 last month in St. Albert) already this season and the Mounties they beat us last year in (game four in the best-of-five semifinal) playoffs. We played them on Sunday and we got the victory so we know they’re going to be coming here hungry,” Schmidt said.
“We’re going have to come ready to play both games. It will be a tough test. Hopefully we’ll come out 10-0.”
The Miners had a score to settle in Calgary after last year’s early playoff exit. It marked the second consecutive year the Miners fell short in their quest to represent Alberta at the Presidents’ Cup after back-to-back provincial triumphs in 2010 and 2011.
“There was definitely extra incentive going into the game. It wasn’t too hard to get up for it,” Schmidt said.
The Miners outscored the home team 7-3 in the third period as the dangerous Graedon Cornfield fired four goals, including a pair on the power play.
“It was a pretty close game until the third period when we kind of pulled away,” said Schmidt, who led by example in the win with two goals and six assists.
“There was a lot of good play from our end on both sides of the floor. We were clicking on all cylinders and had an awesome third period to close it out.”
The day before against the Raiders (4-4) in Okotoks the Miners persevered 9-4 as Cornfield’s hat trick and three assists spearheaded the attack.
“It was huge to get both wins. We went down with a goal of getting two wins because we knew the Calgary teams are our stiffest competition and we did exactly that,” said playmaker Sean Reid.
“Both teams were very strong, especially the Mounties. We hadn’t played them yet and it was really a test to see what we were up against and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. Obviously it was a hard fought battle but we kind of outlasted them. As each period went on we added to our lead.”
Team to fear
A stacked lineup, strengthened by Edmonton Rush players John Lintz and Jarrett Toll returning to the fold this summer, has the Miners headed in the right direction towards the Aug. 25 to 31 Presidents’ Cup in Coquitlam, B.C.
“We have a really strong team. We’ve added a few really key players and made a few trades because we really want to get back to the Presidents’ Cup,” Reid said. “My first two years I was here we made it there and we started to feel accustomed to it and then when it was in Spruce Grove (in 2012) we were hoping to make it again and we got beat out that year (by the Rockyford Knights of Airdrie in game four in the best-of-five final).
“Last year was really a wakeup call for us. It wasn’t a one-off year, it was a two-year thing. That’s why this year our coaches and managers made some adjustments because we want to get back there. Every year our goal is to not only go there but we want to be competitive there too.”
This year’s edition of Miners is arguably the most prolific in team history since the senior B franchise set up shop in St. Albert several years ago.
“Our whole team all around has improved hugely from last year,” Reid said. “Last year we relied on talent alone now we’ve got a lot more structure this year on defence and offence.”
Offensively the Miners are dynamite with the explosive Cornfield (28 goals, compared to only 18 last year, and 48 points) igniting the charge.
“I’m an assist guy so I have a ton of weapons I can pick from out there so it’s really nice to have that kind of firepower on our team,” said the underrated Reid, who is enjoying a career season with 30 assists and 37 points.
“There has been years where it’s a lot more of a grinding offence and we’re out there just trying to get guys open. This year we have the advantage that all of our guys know how to find the lanes and they know how to get open. I go behind the net and I have not only one option but I have three options in front of me.
“The big thing is we’re working as an offensive unit. In past years we’ve had a lot more kind of freestyle offence where we’re working with each other but nothing has been set. This year we’ve implemented a lot more of a system so we have a lot more method to our madness kind of thing.”
Schmidt, 26, expanded further on the team’s lethal offence.
“System-wise what we’re trying to do this year is swing the ball from one side to the other and you turn the defence and you get them mixed up and then you send cutters, you set picks and then you finish off with the shots,” said the Miners’ leading point producer the last two years with 57 in 15 games in 2013 and 64 in 14 games as the RMLL’s top scorer in 2012.
“It also helps having a deep offence. We have eight or nine players that can really put the ball into the net so our scoring is spread around.”
Defensively the Miners are tighter than a drum.
“We’re playing a new system and we’re dominating other offences. They’re not getting any opportunities five-on-five and I think last weekend over half the goals (the Raiders and Mountaineers scored) we were shorthanded,” said Schmidt, who honed his skills in the New Westminster system and with the South Edmonton Warriors.
Reid, 26, credits the presence of Lintz for solidifying the team’s back end.
“He’s brought the Rush defence and it’s a high pressure defence,” said the minor lacrosse product of the Edmonton Wizards. “I believe we have the best defence in the league and we have the best goalie (Dave Marrese) in the league too.”