The St. Albert Miners discovered bronze while digging for gold at the Presidents’ Cup senior B lacrosse championship.
After losing only the third game of the season – all in a row – in Saturday’s semifinal to the Onondaga Redhawks, the eventual national champions, the Miners came through in the clutch to win Sunday’s bronze-medal playoff against the Kahnawake Mohawks.
“We left it all on the line. Guys were hurt but we battled through as a team and we ended up getting bronze and I can’t say I’m not proud of that,” said Dave Marrese, the second-team all-star netminder at nationals in Coquitlam, B.C.
The Miners were undefeated in 26 games before Onondaga handed the Alberta champions their first loss of the season in round-robin action Thursday. The Can-Am Senior B Lacrosse League reps busted open a 6-6 deadlock with 3:09 left in regulation time to win 7-6.
In the semifinal, captain Nate Schmidt scored shorthanded from Nick Petz with 3:30 left in regulation time, and John Lintz penalized for illegal gloves (two minutes and game misconduct), to knot the count at eight apiece.
Onondaga replied with the game winner by Lyle Thompson, the first-team all-star forward and the tournament’s top point producer with 40 in eight games, with 1:23 to play and then closed it out with an empty-net tally with 12 ticks on the clock.
“The gold medal game was really played on that Saturday night,” said Marrese, who stopped a whopping 50 shots on Thursday and compiled 28 saves in the semifinal. “Some of the best games in the tournament were between us and Onondaga and we came up a little bit short. A couple of bad bounces didn’t go our way and a couple of bounces went their way so that’s kind of how it goes.
“Realistically it could have gone either way both games.”
The Miners already had a semifinal spot secured going into Thursday’s match and in the last game before the playoffs they dropped a 9-6 decision to Kahnawake, last year’s silver medallists from the Quebec Senior Lacrosse League.
“You always want to keep the winning streak going but if there is any time to lose a game it would’ve been Thursday or Friday because we were already in the semifinals,” said Marrese, who didn’t dress Friday as pickup Aaron Bold of the Edmonton Rush via the Spruce Grove Slash started in net. “Obviously we would’ve loved to win those games and put ourselves in a situation where we’re playing Six Nations (Rivermen of the Ontario Lacrosse Association, who the Miners beat 10-8 in the round robin) on Saturday and that would’ve been ideal.
“But losing that game Thursday night I really didn’t think it would set us back in a way that would hurt us for the rest of the tournament. The only team that was going to beat us was ourselves and we just came up short.”
In the semifinal, Onondaga posted period leads of 2-1 and 7-4. Schmidt’s three goals and two assists paced the Miners’ attack. Graedon Cornfield struck twice and added two assists. Jordan Cornfield, Sean Reid and Josh Sullivan also scored as the Miners registered a game-high 55 shots on net.
“It was close the whole way through. I think we hit four or five goal posts,” Marrese said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
With a medal on the line the Miners regrouped to down Kahnawake 7-5. They posted a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes and never looked back. Two goals and four assists by Chris Schmidt and Graedon Cornfield’s hat-trick led the way offensively during a 48-shot barrage. Lintz, sporting new gloves, and Ryan Davis also fired singles and Nate Schmidt drew four assists.
“It was nice to get a little redemption on Kahnawake,” said Marrese, who posted 28 saves Sunday. “We stuck to our systems and played our game.”
The Miners finished 5-3 at nationals to end the season at 27-3.
“Eight games in seven days adds up but we felt like we were the team to go the distance,” said Marrese, who finished the tournament with a 3-2 record, 7.33 GAA and .812 save percentage.
Marrese was among four Miners to earn all-star status. The first-team lineup included forward Nate Schmidt, the second-leading scorer at nationals with 34 points on the strength on 15 goals (four on the power play and four shorthanded) and Lintz (six points), another Rush affiliate on the Miners, on defence. Jordan Cornfield (15 points) made the second team on defence.
In team scoring Graedon Cornfield ranked second behind Nate Schmidt in goals with 12 and points with 20. Darren Kinnear chipped in with six goals and 18 points, Chris Schmidt notched seven goals and 13 points and Petz and Reid had nine points apiece.
The Miners were competing at nationals for the first time since 2011 at Akwesasne. They won two and lost four to equal their same record at the 2010 championship in Burnaby, B.C.
“This is the tightest and the best group of players and people I’ve ever played with and I really, really hope we can put out a team like this next year and get a lot of guys to come back,” said Marrese, 27, the former Rush third-string netminder.