Last year the St. Albert Miners were good but not great and that was unacceptable for the former provincial senior B lacrosse champions.
“I think we took things for granted a little bit,” said offensive runner Graedon Cornfield. “After winning the last two seasons (for berths at nationals) we came in thinking we’re the top team so when we lost in the final last year at provincials it gave us a reality check. It made us realize we need to work a little bit harder to up our game to get to that position that we originally wanted to.”
The Miners lost the best-of-five provincial final to the Rockyview Raiders in four games, as a short bench and a backup in net derailed the injury-riddled team in the series clincher.
Cornfield stressed there are no excuses for the post-season decline, including two losses in Airdrie to start the series and giving up five shorthanded goals in the third period of game four.
“I think in the final game we had 14 guys and we’re allowed to dress 18, but I’m not going to take anything away from the Knights. They’re a really good team and they came to play,” said Cornfield, who only saw action in the last two games of the final. “We’ve just got to come back and step up.”
The Miners ran out of gas in the final, but not because of the shortage of bodies. They were unable keep up to the quicker Knights.
“Conditioning is pretty essential. Last year, even with a short bench, if everyone was in a little bit better shape we would’ve faired off a little bit better,” Cornfield said. “This year we’re going to do a lot of running. We run with the junior Miners in our practices and they’re really high tempo, so if we’re in better shape hopefully that will help out the end result.”
The road back to the promised land starts in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League lid-lifter Friday against the Edmonton Outlaws. Ball drop is 8 p.m. at Bill Hunter Arena.
“We had a little bit of a disappointing finish to last season so there is lots of excitement around here for us to get going,” Cornfield said.
The Miners placed third in the six-team standings as the second-highest scoring team in the league and finished 13-10-1 overall.
In the 2013 draft for 1991 graduating juniors involving the three senior B north teams, the Miners selected Ryan Davis (junior A Miners) second overall, Aaron Duff (junior A Edmonton Eclipse) fifth, David Ahl (Miners) eighth, netminder Leland Lebreque (junior B Edmonton Warriors Tier 1) 11th, Ben Groenewegen (junior B NAMLC Crude Tier 1) 17th, Chad Gendall (Warriors) 20th and Eric MacKay (junior B Edmonton Wizards Tier 2) 23rd.
“It’s good to have new guys come in. They’re good lacrosse players. We drafted them,” Cornfield said. “Chad Gendall is one that will do really well for us. He’s come out to a couple of runs and is just a beast. He’s in great shape. He’ll help us out.”
The Miners welcomed the new additions with open arms.
“We’re personable. We’re a good group of guys. Some teams are kind of standoffish with the rookies but we’re really accommodating and warm to guys coming in. Any questions they have, we want to help them out,” Cornfield said. “The biggest difference about senior and junior is that junior is a lot faster. Usually the junior guys coming up are in great shape. They can run. Us senior guys are a little complacent. We tend to get a little bit out of shape and a little bit slow.”
At the back end, who will stop the ball for the Miners remains a mystery. All-star Dave Marrese, the third-string Edmonton Rush netminder, is expected to hook up with a senior A team in the Western Lacrosse Association after the Rush playoffs are over.
“That would definitely hurt us if he did go. He’s a great goalie,” Cornfield said.
Up front the offensive attack will again be spearheaded by the brother tandems of Graedon and Jordan Cornfield and Nate and Chris Schmidt.
Nate, the captain, and Graedon finished one-two in league scoring with 64 and 56 points, respectively. Nate led all scorers with 28 goals in 14 games and Graedon ranked second with 27 in 15 games.
In the playoffs Nate racked up a whopping 25 goals, including 12 on the power play, and 39 points in eight games.
Two years ago, Graedon ran away with the regular season scoring title with 31 goals and 66 points in 18 games.
Jordan, 30, the oldest and slowest of the Cornfield brothers, was tied for third in goals with 25 and was fourth in points with 48 in 14 games.
Chris was the fourth highest-scoring Miner with 12 goals and 34 assists in 14 games.
“All four of us played for the same minor club (Warriors) growing up and we’re familiar with each other. The more familiar your offence is the better you traditionally play. You have chemistry and that really helps with our team having a lot of the core guys. Even with the defensive game we’ve got some strong core players that we build our defence around,” said Graedon, a 26-year-old landscaper and W.P. Wagner High School alumnus.
MINERS BITS: Last weekend’s exhibition against the Okotoks Raiders in Blackfalds was cancelled because the Miners didn’t have enough runners.
The Miners’ home opener is May 8 against the Spruce Grove Slash at 8 p.m. at Northstar Hyundai Arena.