The 2015 Presidents Cup kicks off Monday in St. Catharines, Ontario as the defending champion Onondaga Redhawks take on the Catpital Axemen, who enter the tournament after winning the Quebec Senior Lacrosse League. The Redhawks look to repeat as champions for the first time since the St. Regis Braves won back to back titles in 2011 and 2012. However the 2015 Presidents Cup may be one of the deepest tournaments we’ve seen in recent years as their is not a week team across the field. While the Redhawks and Rivermen come into the tournament as the favorites to hoist the Presidents Cup when its all said and done, Nanaimo, Snake Island, Rockyview, St. Catharines and the Capitol Axemen all are legitimate threats, which should make for one exciting week of lacrosse in the Niagara Region.
We’ll kick off our preview of the 2015 tournament with a look at the Rex Stimers Division, which will see the Ontario Champion Six Nations Rivermen compete against the Rockeyview Knights of the RMLL, the Snake Island Muskies of the Three Nations Lacrosse League and the Nanaimo Timbermen of the West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association.
1. Six Nations Rivermen (OLA)
The Rivermen enter the 2015 Presidents Cup as the odds on favorite to capture the prestigious trophy as their roster is loaded with talent. While the Rivermen boast arguably the deepest and most talented offense of any team in the tournament, they are equally as strong defensively and in goal, as Rochester Knighthawks goaltender Angus Goodleaf has been absolutely lights out for the Rivermen through the Ontario Senior “B” Lacrosse playoffs. Goodleaf went 4-0 in four playoff appearances, finishing with a 5.00 GAA in Rivermen’s OLA final sweep of the Brooklin Merchants. However if Goodleaf is to falter the Rivermen are still in good shape as three time Junior B goaltender of the Year Warren Hill was also lights out for the Rivermen through the 2015 Regular season and playoffs. Keeping the ball out of the net hasn’t been a problem for the Rivermen this season, and neither has putting the ball in the net. The Rivermen are lead by veteran NLLer Roger Vyse, who dropped down to the Senior B ranks this season after the Six Nations Chiefs brought in Johnny Powless on a full time bases and traded for Ryan Benesch. Vyse thrived upon his arrival with the Rivermen leading the OLA in scoring with 31 goals and 46 assists for 77 points in just 15 games. Following close behind Vyse was Wayne VanEvery who finished second in league scoring with 47 points in just 11 games. Since the roster cut down late in the season, the Rivermen also added Marty Hill and Tom Montour to an offense that already possessed Vyse and VanEvery, along with Delby Powless, Cory Bomberry, Ian Martin and Travis Bland. Defensively the Rivermen will expect continued strong performances from Isiah Kicknosway, Rodd Squire Jr, Jacob Crans and Brock Boyle. If the Rivermen can continue to get the contributions from throughout the lineup, like they did throughout the 2015 regular season and playoffs, they should find themselves with a first place finish in the Rex Stimers Division.
2. Nanaimo Timbermen (WCSLA)
The Nanaimo Timbermen ran away with the West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association regular season crown, going 16-2 through their 18 game regular season. When the 2015 playoffs kicked off the Timbermen found themselves squared off against the Langley Warriors, the series wasn’t much of a series, as the Timbermen dominated the under matched Warriors, sweeping them quite handily in three games. The league final was much tighter, however the result was never in question as the Timbermen swept the Lander Pioneers in three straight games by scores of 12-7, 11-4 and 7-4. The Timbermen have received excellent goaltending throughout the 2015 season from former NLLer Nick Patterson, who has shined in the Timbermen goal, recording a very impressive 5.95 GAA through 15 regular season appearances. Patterson still has the ability to steal games, and could very well do so at some point throughout this 2015 Presidents Cup. Having a veteran like Patterson in goal gives the Timbermen add confidence, knowing their goalie will keep them in the game if the offense has trouble clicking. But again that shouldn’t be to big of a worry for Nanaimo as the boast four of the top ten leading scorers in the WCSLA this season. The Timbermen offense is led by former Coquitlam Adanac Jon Diplock, who led the squad in regular season scoring with 34 goals and 39 assists for 73 points in just 14 games. Diplock continued his offensive success during the playoffs picking up 22 points in just five games. The Timbermen received even more help offensively in the playoffs as veteran Derek Lowe, who had only suited up for 3 regular season games, joined the club full time for their playoff run. Lowe picked up 23 points in six playoff games with the Timbermen, finishing second in playoff scoring. With the likes of Diplock and Lowe, joining Ryan Forslund, Steve Higgs and Ryan Hanna offensively, the Timberben should be able to put up the type of offense they’ll need to compete with the likes of Onondaga and Six Nations.
3. Snake Island Muskies (Three Nations Senior League)
The Muskies come into the Presidents Cup after a regular season that saw them go 9-7. Despite a near .500 record the Muskies are certainly a team to be reckoned with as the 2015 Presidents Cup opens up, as they boast a team with a ton of Presidents Cup experience, along with some players with potent offensive ability and a goaltender that has the ability to steal games at times. In goal expect Trey Adams to get the bulk of the minutes for the Muskies. Adams went 6-7 through the regular season, posting a 10.72 goals against average. Adams numbers aren’t indicative of his level of play, as the on floor play is much more noteworthy then the on paper statistics. Offensively you can expect the Muskies to be a handful with the likes of Joe Hall, Lee Thomas, Shane Francis, Cody Kilcoyne, Ky Tarbell and Andrew Lazore. Hall led the Muskies in scoring this season, picking up 23 goals and 35 assists for 58 points. Hall spent the 2014 season with the Mann Cup winning Six Nations Chiefs, and his experience with such a team should prove to be a factor for the Muskies. Lee Thomas, Ky Tarbell and Andrew Lazore weren’t able to play many regular season games for the Muskies, however with all three in the line up alongside Kilcoyne, Francis and Hall should allow Snake Island to produce offensively and stay in games, despite some defensive deficiencies. Casey and Brandon Swamp along with former NLLer Chad Thompson are the back bone of the Muskies defense and will be relied upon to step up, as the teams they will be competing with in the Stimers division all possess potent offensive ability. The Muskies should be their in all of their round robin games, however they’ll need to steal one if the hope to compete for a medal in 2015.
4. Rockyview Knights (RMLL)
Ranking the Rockyview Knights fourth in the Stimers Division isn’t meant to be a knock on the club, as they are a fairly deep and strong team. However with such talent in the Stimers Division and the tournament as a whole, the Knights will be in tough in 2015, as knocking off Nanaimo or Six Nations will be a lofty expectation. Rockyview should have every opportunity to knock off the Muskies in the round robin, however the lack of depth offensively may prove to be a hindrance for the Knights. Offensively the Knights were able to add Tor Reinholdt and Patrick O’Meara late in the season to give themselves some depth beyond Casey MacIntyre, Steve Schorn and former OLA Jr. A scoring sensation Ricky Acorn. Reinholdt and O’Meara’s elite level playing experience should give them an edge throughout the tournament, as the pair each produced fairly potently in their limited RMLL action this season. Meanwhile Casey MacInytre led the Knights offensively this season with 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points in 15 games. Steve Schorn wasn’t to far behind with 51 points in 12 games, while Ricky Acorn had 41 in 14. Joel Henry also sneaked in 7 games for the Knights this season and should he produce as he did during the regular season, the Knights very well could complete an upset in the round robin. Ryan McBride should see the bulk of the minutes in goal for the Knights throughout the tournament, as he excelled throughout the Regular season and playoffs and the Knights #1.
Next up is the Gatecliff Division that see’s the reigning champion Onondaga Redhawks compete with the Host St. Catharines Saints, QSLL champion Capitol Region Axemen and the Nova Scotia Privteers. While it may be easy to count out the Nova Scotians early, it gets increasingly harder to predict who will capture the Gatecliff Division as we have the former champs, taking on a host team that easily could have won their own league, along with a very very talented Capital Region Axemen squad that added NLL talent throughout the season and should provide one hell of a task for the Hosts and reigning champs.
1. Onondaga Redhawks (Can-AM)
The Champions get the respect they’ve earned by winning last years Championship, with the slight edge in the Gatecliff Division. The Redhawks made their way through the Can-AM regular season with a 13-3 record, followed by a playoff run that saw them make quick work of the Tonawanda Braves and Allegany Arrows, before knocking off the Native Sons in the Can-Am league final. The Redhawks roster was pieced together game by game throughout the 2015 season, and was never really solidified until the playoffs rolled around. With the likes of NLL stars Brett Bucktooth, Miles Thompson, Jerome and Jeremy Thompson running the offense, the Redhawks are tough to contain at that end of the floor. Throw in names like leading scorers Lee Nanticoke and Wade Bucktooth along with Neal Powless, Tyler Hill and Vince Thomas, opposing teams will more so look to limit the Redhawks offense, as it will be nearly impossible to shut them down completely. Defensively the Redhawks will rely on New England Black Wolves hulking defender Bill O’Brien along with Hakeem Lecky and Andy Jamieson. While the Redhawks defense may not possess the big names the offense does, the unit gets the job done, as they continuously limit their oppositions offensive attack. Roscoe Bucktooth played the majority of the games for the Redhawks between the pipes this season, and while he may be unheard of by most in the lacrosse community he has provided stellar netminding for the Redhawks, you can expect that to continue.
2. St. Catharines Saints (Host)
Between the Saints and Axemen its a narrow race, given the Saints depth and their home floor advantage you have to give them the edge over the very skilled Axemen. Despite the Saints bowing out some what early for them in the Ontario Senior “B” playoffs, the Saints are no slouch as the boast an extremely skilled lineup that will undoubtedly give the defending champs a run for their money for the Gatecliff Division. In Saints have one of the most potent offensive units in the tournament, lead by Vancouver Stealth draft pick Dan Keane and Minnesota Swarm star Kiel Matisz. The surrounding talent isn’t half bad either as the boast former NLLers Geoff McNulty and Dylan Llord alongside future NLLer Shayne Adams. Torrey VanEvery, Brad Favero, Colin McDowall and Blue Hill round out the stand out offensive players for the Saints. Defensively Mitch Dumont, Joel Shepley, John Rae, Mike Attwood and Andy Tober will be expected to stand out for the Saints, providing solid defense and transition ability. If the Saints can push the floor in transition they’ll be a multifaceted team as far as providing offense goes. In goal you can expect Grant Crawley to handle the duties, although Jake Henhawk provides solid back up relief and could very well find himself playing some valuable minutes. The Saints alongside Six Nations and Onondaga have the greatest depth of the teams in this tournament and that along with their Presidents Cup experience will go along way in how far this team goes throughout the tournament.
3. Capitol Region Axemen
The Axemen ran away with the QSLL this season, going 13-2 during the regular season, before going 7-0 through the playoffs, sweeping both the Kahnawake Tomahawks and the Kahnawake Mohawks. The Axemen are led offensively by Tim Bergin, who led the QSLL in scoring this season, averaging seven points per game (84 points in 12 games). However the Axemen added NLLers Callum Crawford, Alex Kedoh Hill and Sam Bradman towards the end of the season, which made an already potent offense, that much stronger. Crawford would pick up 17 points in just 5 games while Kedoh Hill appeared in 6 games, recording 31 points. Mark Vradenburg, Nicolas Sanseverino, Raj Wasson and Blake Kenney also provide offensive depth for the QSLL champion Axemen and should continue to produce throughout the tournament. The Axemen have one NLL defender on their back end in Ian Crawford who saw limited time with the Minnesota Swarm last season, despite the lack of big name talent on the back end the Axemen do have sound team defense and you can expect that to continue this week at the Presidents Cup. In goal you can expect Brett Perras to get the boatload of the action between the pipes, as the former Whitby Warrior went 9-1 with a 5.47 GAA through the 2015 regular season, and was has the ability to steal games for the Axemen. If Perras struggles, Chris Collins will provide solid back up relief for the Axemen, as Collins has spent some time on NLL practice rosters in the past few years and has shown to be a capable, if not elite Senior B goaltender. The Axemen vs Saints game should be an interesting one as the winner will likely gain entry to the medal round while the loser will go home, assuming the Redhawks run the table through the round robin.
4. Nova Scotia Privateers
Nova Scotia Lacrosse is growing, and that’s great for the game of lacrosse. With that being said, the boys from Nova Scotia will be in tough this week, as they are playing in a division with not only some of the best talent in the senior B lacrosse world, but some of the best talent lacrosse has to offer, as the likes of the Thompson Brothers, Brett Bucktooth, Kiel Matisz, Callum Crawford and Alex Kedoh hill are all elite NLL talents. Playing against such talent will only improve the play of lacrosse in that area of Canada, however it may be a tough learning experience for the All-Stars from the NSSLL.