Cranbrook Elite junior lacrosse to host West Kootenay rivals

Cranbrook Elite junior lacrosse to host West Kootenay rivals

Team eager to keep up solid start to season in home games against Timberwolves over weekend

Western Financial Place will host a pair of highly competitive box lacrosse games this weekend as the Cranbrook Elite take on the West Kootenay Timberwolves on Saturday and Sunday.

The Elite have lived up to their name through five games this season, with a 4-1 record in the Junior ‘B’ Tier III division of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League. Their road, however, is expected to get a lot more difficult as the 2018 season progresses.

After a pair of big wins over the Calgary Axemen T3 team at the start of May, the Tier III division shrunk from three teams to just two as the Axemen folded. To make up for the missing games, the Elite have several games lined up in June against Tier II squads.

“Our biggest challenge right now [will be preparing for that level of competition],” said Matthew Struthers, a senior member of the team. “The other challenge is the amount of players we have on the team. We have a short bench already [and] we struggle with that every game, but we persevere.”

With Struthers out with an injury, the team will be even shorter over the weekend, but with games against West Kootenay, the only other Tier III team, the matchups should not be too daunting.

“They have a short bench [too] and they play man-on-man defence, so they leave a lot of space down by the crease and we have a lot of good fast guys, so on offense, we [can] tear them up pretty good,” Struthers said.

In their only previous game against the Timberwolves this year, back on April 28 in Rossland, the Elite won 10-13. Eric Takala scored four goals in that game and leads the team in scoring this year with 12, while brother Cooper and Connor McLaughlin lead in points with 19 each.

According to Struthers, the team is strongest while on the power play.

“[When] we have an extra guy on the floor, we do quite well,” he said. “We’re getting there on our penalty kill, but we’re weak on loose balls. We’re not an aggressive team [and] we’ve got some smaller guys on the team [who can be] slow when they can’t get to the balls fast.”

After a pair of practices this week, the team is hoping that they will be stronger in all areas of the floor and can stay disciplined.

The Elite’s first game against the Timberwolves is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and a rematch is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday. Struthers urged the community to come check them out.

“It’s fast, it’s rough, it’s entertaining,” he said. “We don’t stand around a whole lot. It’s pretty exciting to watch, so if [people] bring their kids out, maybe they can get them to come out and play [someday] so that we can keep [the program] alive. We need more juniors in a couple of years.”

Following the weekend, the Elite have games scheduled against the Sylvan Lake Yettis, the Medicine Hat Sun Devils, the Calgary Wrangles and the Axeman T2, before finishing off their year with a few more games against West Kootenay.