Vermont Voyageurs coach and team owner Jeff Culkin stated after the game: “For our first outing, I am very, very pleased with all faces of our game.” That was the overall sentiment, echoed by Ethan Farrell, “It was a great event, couldn’t have been happier with what the guys did as a team.” The Voyageurs and Boston Blazers traveled to the Onondaga War Memorial Arena for a three-team box lacrosse event, hosted by the Syracuse Stingers.
The Voyageurs took down the hometown Stingers 19-12 in the first scrimmage. Vermont plays in the Quebec Senior B Box League, and used Sunday’s scrimmage to tool up for the upcoming season. For those not in the know, the Quebec Senior B League is composed of the Ottawa Axemen, Sherbrooke Extreme, Kahnawake Mohawks, Kahnawake Tomahawks and the Vermont Voyageurs. The winner of the league goes out to play for the President’s Cup in Alberta in August.
From the opening face-off it was clear that the Voyageurs were the better team on the turf. Vermont came out to a 3-0 first period lead, and never looked back. The game featured two fast-paced, physical teams. The Voyageurs passing looked crisp as the game moved on, and their defense was staunch, picking off passes and dominating on groundballs. Off of turnovers, Vermont snagged 5 goals as they out hustled the Stingers on the fast-breaks.
Vermont came out flying, but stalled a little bit in the beginning of the second half. “Until you get into that kind of flow, it’s a little tough. [I] Caught a second wind there and started to feel pretty good [in the second half],” said offenseman Trevor Wager. The Voyageurs came into the second half leading 10-3 but allowed the Stingers to go on a 5-3 run in the third period. The Stingers came within 4 goals of the Voyageurs on several occasions, but could never break through.
One of the bright spots for Syracuse was the play at the face-off X, where they took the vast majority of wins helping them to get back into the game. “I think we played well, it just took us a little bit to get into it and in the second half we had it,” said Stingers defenseman Michael Whalen. Whalen had one of the better games of the Syracuse players, but gave up a key turnover on an errant pass in the second quarter leading to a Voyageur goal in transition. Turnovers were a problem for the Stingers all day as compared to Vermont they looked a little more greener to the tight quarters of the indoor setting. While the Stingers have not played many games together, the Voyageurs returned 15 players form last years squad, and their chemistry looked flawless.
Vermont outshot Syracuse all game. The Voyageurs scored numerous goals from distance, getting much more of their shots on net than the Stingers could. While the Syracuse goalies struggled throughout the game, Vermont’s Josh Kacprzak and Vincent Talbot looked excellent making a ton of saves on the crease.
The Voyageurs will go on to start their season May 17th when they get into league play, hosting the Ottawa Axemen. “I would say when we play in Quebec, the experience level is probably a little higher because of the native influence and also the NLL influence,” said Coach Culkin.
The astro-turf carpet’s many advertisements led to a slippery surface in several spots and caused referees and players to have problems staying on their feet. Nevertheless, the OnCenter did provide an attractive venue for the players, “It was exciting to play in an arena like this” commented Wager, “and getting to play that NLL style rules was very fun…I would definitely like to come back next year if they did it.”
Vermont plays their home games in Essex Junction, VT, just outside of Burlington. Although UVM recently elevated their lacrosse program to Division 1, Vermont is really a non-traditional lacrosse area. The Voyageurs have been building a home in Burlington for the last few years, and are looking to expand the footprint of box lacrosse in Vermont; “Our sponsor base is growing, our fan interest is growing, the media interest is growing,” said Culkin, “we’re building it.” The Voyageurs have been expanding their junior program as of late, joining the Montreal Junior league, which focuses on ages 17 to 21. Vermont is seeking college players looking to learn the indoor, hybrid style and increase their stick skills over the summer, which they can take back to their college teams. For more information you can visit the Voyageurs website at http://www.vermontvoyageurs.com/.