Winning provincials is not a sprint but a marathon and the St. Albert Crude are training to go the distance this year.
Last year’s finalists to represent Alberta at the Founders’ Cup national championship are rapidly gaining momentum as winners of six in a row in junior B Tier 1 lacrosse.
“We don’t want to stop here,” said Reece Runco, a transition player for the 6-0-1 Crude. “Everyone is willing to put in the work to continue this run that we’re on.”
The top team in the Rocky Mountain league is averaging 9.7 goals per game and only 5.2 against.
“We’re really balanced. We’ve got a big defence and we’ve got a fast defence too so it’s a matter of transitioning the ball up the floor and that can happen really, really fast and then our offence takes over. We’ve got a very strong offence and we’ve got some really talented guys up front and they’re clicking together so far,” Runco said.
It was a total team effort on display last weekend at Akinsdale Arena in wins of 14-5 against the Edmonton Warriors and 9-5 against the Red Deer Rampage.
“We were able to really dig and our effort was strong as a unit and that has been an incredible focus for us this year,” Runco said. “It’s our actual bond as a team that really helps us out, plus the positivity on the bench and just how we continually encourage each other.”
The Crude capitalized six times on the power play against the penalty-riddled Warriors (5-2) while rolling up period leads of 4-1 and 11-4 Saturday night.
Cody Stannard and captain Erik Turner potted a pair apiece and Derek Burak and Jacob Dion also scored with the man advantage.
Stannard racked up three goals and six assists in the win and Turner, a junior field lacrosse midfielder with Cornell Big Red, fired four goals and added three assists.
Burak finished with two goals and three assists, Owen Feist tallied twice and Lucas Roberts and Cam Ellingson sniped singles.
In net was Troy Boucher.
“Our offence clicked. Our defence was working super hard. There was a real good flow to the game. The chemistry of the boys was super tight. It just felt really, really good,” said Runco, who chipped in with four assists.
Sunday afternoon against Red Deer (5-2-1) the Crude battled back from a 3-1 deficit after the opening 20 minutes to lead 7-4 entering the third. The six-goal outburst in the second was highlighted by Tyler Turner’s shorthanded effort with 6:55 left in the period to tie it at four.
The Crude also posted four power-play markers in the second – the last one by Stannard came with 45 seconds remaining in the period.
Ellingson and Erik Turner recorded hat-tricks and affiliate Adam Hardinge also scored. Stannard and Burak were credited with three assists apiece.
“We had some very strong goaltending behind us (by Boucher) and we came together as a unit to hold onto that lead,” Runco said.
Red Deer is the Crude’s main threat in the north. Last year in the best-of-three north final the Crude rallied from a game one loss in St. Albert to win the series.
In the season opener the Crude outscored Red Deer 4-1 in the third to salvage a 9-9 draw.
“Both teams came to play. It was a battle for first place and we were able to pull together and get the win,” said Runco, 19.
The O’Leary High School graduate rejoined his junior B team this year after recording two goals and four assists in 14 games for the last-place junior A St. Albert Miners in 2013. Two years ago with the Crude he was sixth in team scoring with 20 points in 18 games.
Runco wore the captain’s crest until Turner, a prolific scorer for the Crude – last year he was No. 2 point producer in the north with a team-record 90 in 13 games – returned home from Cornell last weekend.
“It’s a great group of guys. I’m glad I’m back,” said Runco, who has complied 13 assists in seven games this year.
The Crude are back on the floor Saturday against the Saskatoon-based Saskatchewan Swat (4-2) at 7:30 p.m. at Akinsdale. Sunday the Crude visit the Rampage at 4 p.m. at Kinex Arena in Red Deer.