For the second time in three years the Saanich Tigers are the provincial Junior B lacrosse champions.
After going undefeated in the three-game round robin, beating the New Westminster Salmonbellies 8-6, Kamloops Venom 13-8 and Westshore Bears 10-9, the Tigers defeated a strong New Westminster Salmonbellies side 6-5 in the gold-medal final.
It’s the second provincial title since the Saanich Tigers were reborn five years ago under the leadership of general manager Chris Jackson.
“I learned a long time ago from a great lacrosse mind, Jim Gow, that it’s not about getting the most talented players – don’t get me wrong talent helps – it’s about getting players with heart, who play for the guy beside them and have each other’s back on the floor and in life, and that’s how we roll around here,” Jackson said.
The Tigers went 12-1 to win the three-team Pacific Northwest Junior Lacrosse League this year, dropping one game to the rival Westshore Bears. Cowichan was unable to field a team this year but the league continues on.
“It’s a pretty good little program we’ve got running here,” Jackson said.
Tigers goalie Tanner Hodgson was named tournament MVP and is the “blood that kept the heart of the Tigers beating” this year with timely saves, Jackson added.
“I think Tanner will be drafted into the Western Lacrosse Association in the next draft. Now that he’s graduated, he’s clearly the top goalie in the province that isn’t on a WLA roster.”
It wouldn’t be the first time, as current Victoria Shamrocks WLA defender Ethan Garland was drafted from the Tigers after he helped the club win the 2013 provincial title.
The Tigers were led by a crew of graduating players including captain Scott Slym and assistant captains Derek Mcleod, Sam Tschitter, Connor Neuman and Aiden Paike.
The Tigers also benefited from some “superstar youngsters” a group of 16-year-old call ups from the Int. B team, including backup goalie Dakota Kasper and runners Cole Christiaens and Wilson Gurney.
“As 16-year-olds playing against 19 and 20-year-olds, these kids never missed a beat, they’re going to be great lacrosse players.”
Parksville’s Tanner Jones put up big minutes as a rookie and, with second-year Jordan Green, showed as much skill and talent as on any Junior A roster.
Coaches Bud Vandemeer and Brett Carter got the most of the team and knew how to press the right buttons at the right time, Jackson said.