The Saanich Tigers overcame Island rivals to complete a playoff run they’ll never forget as pee wee A2 provincial box lacrosse champions.
It was a great finish by the Tigers (boys aged 11 and 12 years old), who had a 13-5 in record in the regular season. The Tigers swept Juan de Fuca in two games (best-of-three series) in the opening round of the playoffs but fell 14-6 loss to Nanaimo in the Island final.
Being an Island finalist earned the Tigers a spot in the pee wee A2 provincials, July 12 to 15 in Coquitlam.
In the round robin Saanich played Ridge Meadows in the first game, narrowly edging the Burrards 5-4. Next was Prince George, and the Tigers took a 6-2 lead into the third period only to lose 7-6, giving up five unanswered goals in a disheartening collapse.
But Saanich got lucky as Ridge Meadows defeated Prince George and opened the door for a three-way-tie, and a chance for Saanich to advance to the semifinals from the round robin. In order to do so the Tigers needed to beat host Coquitlam and also accrue enough goals to win the tie-breaker in the standings.
And win they did, upending Coquitlam 11-6. The five goal differential gave Saanich an edge over Ridge Meadows in the standings and put them in the semifinals against Nanaimo.
This time, it was a different game than the Island final. Saanich scored first against Nanaimo and the teams continued to trade until it was 9-9 at the end of regulation. It was close but neither team scored in the extra 10-minute period, though Nanaimo hit the cross bar twice and Tigers goaltender Jace Stuart came through with some brilliant saves.
Saanich’s Luke Neary, who was later named the tournament MVP, netted the game winner 18 seconds into sudden death to push Saanich ahead 10-9.
“Nanaimo is a talented and fast team, but I think the difference in this game was Nanaimo had not faced adversity in the regular season or the provincials,” noted lacrosse dad Andy Stuart. “The difference was Saanich had some tough losses this season and were able to battle through for the win.”
That set up a rematch with Prince George in the gold medal. Saanich and Prince George traded goals until it was 4-4 midway through the second, at which point, the Tigers exploded for a flurry of goals with brothers Jack and James Hall netting one each and Neary also scoring. It ended with the Tigers ahead 11-7.
The Saanich Tigers pee wee A2 provincial champions are: Jacob Eddy, Jack Anderson, Tyler Delli-Carri, Devin Virk, Quin Cramb, Beckett Robinson, Oscar Scott, Zack Steeds, Declan Kirby, Parker MacDougall, Joshua Carson, Matt Oman, Jaydan Garnett, James Hall, Jack Hall, Hudson Jenner, Luke Neary and Jace Stuart.
The team was coached by Fred Jenner, Maki Jenner, Owen Russel and Scott Hall, with manager Lisa Carson.