Below is a breakdown of what to expect from the CUFLA West Division in 2015. The ultimate goal is a trip to Lennoxville, home of the Bishop’s Gaiters, for the Baggataway Cup on November 6-8, 2015. The 2015 West Division schedule kicks off this weekend?with a pair of games each on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Friday, September 11th
Brock @ McMaster - 8:00pm
Guelph @ Western – 8:30pm
Saturday, September 12th
Laurier @ Nipissing – 1:00pm
Toronto @ Laurentian – 5:00pm
Sunday, September 13th
Laurier @ Laurentian – 9:00am
Toronto @ Nipissing – 2:00pm
Although the Brock Badgers have seen tremendous regular season success, winning the West Division each of the last two seasons, they have not seen that success translate into a championship. Brock has?fallen in the semi-finals to Guelph in each of the last two years, including a heartbreaking 13-12 loss last season.
The Badgers will enter this season without some of the offensive flair that has led the team in recent years including last year’s goal-scoring leader Greg Davidson, 2013 points leader Kyle Davis and All-Canadian midfielder Gage Board who led Brock to the league’s best offence in 2014. All-Canadian Brandon Slade will look to continue to lead the offensive charge that includes the addition of Davis Neal and Jeremy McWatters.
On the back end, All-Canadian Parker Baile will look to anchor a young defence that includes the addition of local product Alec Tamas. With their offence getting younger, the Badgers will need to rely on their defence and goaltending to guide them in their quest to return to the top of the proverbial CUFLA mountain.
Despite finishing behind Brock and Western each of the last two regular seasons, the Gryphons have shown a tremendous propensity to win when it matters the most. Guelph went 4-0 during the playoffs, knocking off Toronto, Bishop’s, Brock, and McGill along the way. This year they look to become the first team to 3-peat since Brock won 6 straight championships from 2002-2007.
It will be an uphill climb for the red and gold as they will lose Ryan Serville, Curtis Knight, and Jordan Critch. All 3 were a vital part of the past 2 championship runs for the Gryphs, combining for 131 points in the 2014 regular season.
With the offence suffering such a tremendous loss, Guelph has shifted their focus to the back end. The team has added former Team Ontario long pole Kevin Simpson and Welland product Ryan Kirchmayer to help bolster the defence. Despite the changes, if recent history is any indication Guelph will no doubt be a Baggataway Cup contender in 2015.
The 2014 season was one of the most successful in Laurentian lacrosse history. The team finished with a 6-6 regular-season record and coaches George Shepphard and Derrick Gordon were named the CUFLA Coaching Staff of the Year. The Voyageurs, however, fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Western Mustangs.
This year they look to improve upon their success, take the next step and break into the Top 3 of the CUFLA West Division, which has been locked down by Brock, Guelph and Western in recent years. In order to do so, they will need to find a way to replace the offence of Phil Romanet and Clint Lamarsh, who finished first and third in team scoring respectively.
The team has added a number of young recruits who will look to fill the void. On the other end of the field, 2014 Honourable Mention All-Canadian Ian Walters and Hill Academy graduate Jake Kelly will look to improve on Laurentian’s 4th-best goals against and 5th-place finish from last season.
There is only one way to go for the Golden Hawks – up. An 0-12 regular season record in 2014 has left the team’s coaching staff hungry for improvement. Head Coach Clancy Almas has seen success at?the National level, winning multiple Canadian championships as a coach, most recently this past summer as an assistant coach with the U18 squad from Ontario. He will look to continue that success with the purple and gold of Laurier.
A strong recruiting class will add some tremendous depth and leadership that will no doubt see some improvement in 2015. It includes two former Founders Cup champions in former Halton Hills Bulldogs captain Seth Laidlaw and current Six Nations Rebels captain Danton Miller. In addition, Bryce Mayea joins Laurier after spending the summer as captain of the Hamilton Bengals Jr B team.
Further to those additions, Laurier has added long pole and Team Ontario U18 captain Mac Forde and Hill Academy alum Riley Hutchcraft. Combined with the return of Owen Sound Jr B captain Chris Van Oten and 2014 leading scorer Connor Bullock, the culture for the Kitchener Waterloo school has changed and they will almost certainly be CUFLA’s most improved team in 2015.
The 2nd year team finished their inaugural season with 3 wins to finish 7th in the West Division, scoring 2 wins over Laurier and 1 against McMaster. 2015 will prove to be tough sledding for the Lakers squad, as an improved Laurier squad will look to get those wins back, including an opening weekend matchup. In addition, the team will be without captain Broedie Birkhoff.
The 2014 Lakers squad was led offensively by Zach Kozlowski and Curtis Perry, as well as honourable mention All-Canadian Nick Chaykowsky. Offensively, the Nipissing attack put up a respectable 111 goals, but they struggled on defence giving up a West Division worst 181 goals.
In order to take the next step the Lakers will need to keep up the pace on offence, but they will need to significantly shore up the back end. If they do that, it wouldn't?be a surprise to see them jump up the standings and challenge for a playoff spot in 2015.
Recent years have proved to be lean for the McMaster Marauders. Following a 2011 Baggataway Cup championship, the Marauders have yet to find themselves back in the championship game. Last season the Marauders suffered a first round playoff loss in St. Catharines against the Badgers. This year, the Marauders have made it their goal to advance deeper into the playoffs.
Back in the mix is last season’s leading scorer Mitch Iszulka and 4th-year goaltender Max Yavitt, both veterans who will be leaned on in Hamilton. In addition, the Marauders have added local product Brandon Petter, who has transferred from Laurier and will add athleticism to the McMaster midfield. The Marauders have a good group of coaches in place who have the ability to get the most out of their players.
The month of September sees McMaster play both Guelph and Brock two times each. If they can steal a win against one of those two teams, the Marauders will be well-positioned heading into October and beyond.
Much like Laurentian, the Blues will be looking to crack the top 3 in CUFLA’s west division. After a 6-6 record, good enough for 4th place in the division, Toronto dropped their first round playoff matchup to the eventual champions from Guelph.
Despite the loss of All-Canadians Michael Buwalda and Corey Wright, and Honourable Mention All-Canadian Jordan Robertson, Toronto will still possess the ability to take the next step. Joining the Blues for the 2015 season are NCAA transfers Brayden Gerrie and Mitch de Snoo. Gerrie was a 2013 USILA All-American Long Stick Midfielder who will look to solidify the defensive core. Meanwhile, de Snoo enters U of T as a 2014 Strength and Conditioning All American. Both players are pursuing a Masters degree at U of T and will serve as leaders both on and off the field as the Blues look to improve on last year’s first round playoff exit.
Much like the Brock Badgers in recent years, the Western Mustangs have not been able to get over the hump and capture the Baggataway Cup. The past 3 seasons have featured a Baggataway Cup finals loss, a semi-final loss, and a quarter-final loss.
Heading into 2015, the Mustangs defence will lose two key All-Canadians in goaltender Zack Grace and long pole Matt Spanger. Additionally, their second leading scorer last season, Dylan Ham, is also gone. However, the news isn’t all bad in London as the Mustangs have added two former Team Ontario players in attack/midfielder Cody Ward and goalkeeper Manraj Nijaar.
If the Mustangs want to keep pace with Brock and Guelph in the west, they will once again rely on their defence, which has had the West Division’s best goals against every year since the 2007 season. As the old adage goes, defence wins championships. If the Mustangs have their way this season, they will rely on their defence to reinforce the truth in that statement.