KNIGHTS WIN INAUGURAL VFLL CHAMPIONSHIP
It was a beautiful evening for field lacrosse in the latter half of the month of March, the occasional tear falling from Mother Nature but otherwise clear evening. The Head of Ticket Sales for the VFLL forgot their change box and hand stamp so everyone go into field #3 for free to watch the much anticipated match-up between the Knights and the Plugs. There was a buzz in the stands behind the scorer's table and the far sidelines as fans settled in with their hot drinks, chairs and warm blankets and many carrying homemade signs with slogans, words of encouragement and even one marriage proposal.
After team warm-up's; players were introduced in numerical order, then the officials and finally we awaited the National Anthem but the recording on the Commissioners iPhone was corrupt and when he offered to sing it, there was a unanimous and resounding "no" belted out from players and fans ;) Officials Nico Beaudoin, Cody Cook and Nolan Tytgat got the call to do the Championship game, so players settled in on the sidelines and in their respective positions on the field to start the final game of the VFLL season.
After winning the opening faceoff, the Plugs seemed to do very well controlling the ball in the Knights defensive zone but not able to penetrate the alleys. Play went back and forth with the defenses doing their jobs until the Plugs Ryan Lewis took advantage of his defender being tripped up by the turf monster and opening the scoring for the Plugs. Just over a minute later, right handed attack James Spence used his quick feet to sidestep his man and shoot a bullet into the bottom right corner of the 6x6 past Knights Will Chiasson to put the Plugs up by two. Both teams went end to end on a couple of fast breaks but both 'keeper's Chiasson and Ormiston were there to answer the bell, keeping the score as it stood, 2-0. Then at almost the middle of the frame, the Knights' Parker Johnson (not to be confused with the local roofing company on Oldfield Road), took a loose ball from X (behind the net) and carried it out around the horn and dodged his man down the players' alley and scored top cheddar to put the Knights on the scoreboard. After a few minutes of play, the VFLL league leader in penalty minutes took an unfortunate tripping penalty and the Plugs Steve Higgs capitalized on the powerplay to give the Plugs a 3-1 lead. The Knights Brenden Harstad was a seagull around the goal at this point and when a ball came loose in the back of the crease area of the Plugs, he flew in for the chance, scooped the rock up and dove from behind goal line extended to score the Knights' second goal and bring them to within one. With just over two minutes and again with just over one minute, the Plugs Higgs and Lewis took advantage of space between them and their defenders and locked and loaded rockets into the Knights cage to give the Plugs the first intermission lead 5-2.
The second quarter started with the Knights winning the draw and just a merge few seconds into the quarter, Nick Preston putting on a cutting clinic, speeding down the gut with the ball to bury the Knights third goal. Then unfortunately for the Plugs, the shocker for them was they couldn't keep possession in the Knights end, coughing up balls when driving the lane or making that finite pass to a team mate that was just out of reach of their sticks. Each time, the Knights would capitalize and get a marker of their own at the other end; consecutive goals by Adam Golia, Parker Johnson, Cody Clark and Kyle Drouin to give the golden crusaders a 7-5 lead with 8 minutes to go in the frame. The lone goal of the quarter for the Plugs came from the stick of Brodie Wade, dodging past his longpole defender and ripping twine to bring the Plugs back within one but a minute later, the Knights sent (what looked like a gazelle running over the Serengeti) when Brayden Zunti covered most of the field virtually untouched to re-establish a 2 goal lead and then in the dying moments before the half, a crushing shot from the stick of the Knights archer Cole Christiaens sent teams into the halftime break with the Knights up 9-6 over the Plugs.
To conclude the "Only Four" VFLL Championship Tournament, the executive spared no expense and got Canadian singer, songwriter, and actor The Weeknd. Awaiting his dramatic entry onto the field, the agent for The Weeknd called the Commissioner on the field when it was time for his performance, apologizing stating he unfortunately wouldn't be making the game as it was a Sunday and could only make an appearance during the week (lol). Joking aside, the league lined up 4 clamshell boxes at centre field and announced a halftime competition for the spectators. Fans at the game could race one another, run on to the field and grab a "lucky" clamshell to keep the prize located inside. With Goal Diggers goaltender Brett Savory in attendance, with a lit sparkler in hand for fireworks, the fans sprinted on the field to get a prize. What could the prizes be? Could have been tickets to the 2024 VFLL Championship Game? Maybe the contents were leftovers from the Keg Restaurant? Or maybe the prizes were a toque with each team logo embroidered on them? Who knows? Only the fans that ran onto the field can tell you.
The third quarter and entire second half of the game, was a goaltenders' dual. Both Dan Ormiston and Will Chiasson put on an absolute clinic, showing why their teams were in the VFLL final. The Knights captain Cole Christiaens continued his tear of enemy territory potting the only two goals of the quarter for the Knights at the halfway mark and under a minute to play in the third frame. Not to be outdone, the Plugs Jake Emms shocked the opposition with a fake pass across the lane and a dodge down the alley to bury his first of the evening. That was followed up with Spence's second of the game with just 10 seconds to go in the quarter. The final intermission showed the score, Knights 11 and Plugs 8.
After the intermission entertainment of hearing the 80's hit "I Love A Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbitt, teams re-entered the battleground for the fourth and final 18 minute quarter to determine who would be champion. The Knights' Adam Golia continued his performance of Swan Lake each time he came close to the crease, pirouetting his way across the front of the net to score his second of the game. Then with an unfortunate slashing call to the Knights, the Plugs Mason Lo would pot his first of the evening on the powerplay and bring his team back within three with just over 12 minutes left to play. Defenses tightened up once again and each time with team would attack the front of the net, it looked like a scene out of Braveheart, with no one wanting to give up an inch or the ball. The Plugs Colin Bell looked like a magician on his first goal of the night, surprizing Chiasson with a high to low shot making the score 12-10 for the Knights with seven minutes remaining. For the next five minutes, it seemed like to clock was in slow motion! Both teams fighting for every loose ball possession, repeated shots narrowly missing its target and the animated intensity on the field and on the team sidelines seemed to add that extra anticipation to a game that was nearing it's final two minutes. Both teams having good success around the goal, just couldn't find that extra inch on their shots to put their team ahead by another or close the gap. With 1:41 left to play in the game, the Knights Golia stripped a player of the ball near the goal, took the loosie and potted his 3rd of the game and sealed the deal for the Knights. The Knights then went on to possess the ball for the majority of the final time. With a little scrum ensuing for a loose ball in the Knights crease, a couple of players from each team diving into the pile to find the rock in hopes of that last ditch effort to pull out another point. When the dust settled, the Knights retained possession, and secured the 13-10 victory and their names in the record books as the first winners of the Victoria Field Lacrosse League Championship Shield.
Congratulations to both the Plugs and the Knights on a well played Championship game!
HeadCase Sportz Players of the Game:
Plugs: Steve Higgs
Plugs: Dan Ormiston
Knights: Adam Golia
Knights: Cole Christiaens