Ravens are B.C. champs

The Bantam Ravens won the B.C. lacrosse championships last week

The Campbell River Booster Juice Bantam A2 Ravens may have lost a key battle but they worked hard to ensure they didn’t lose the war.  The Ravens lost the Island Banner to Nanaimo on July 13 by a score of 8-6.

This setback could have been the start of a significant downward spiral as the team prepared for the Provincial Championships but the Ravens coaches kept the team focused during practices at the outdoor lacrosse box before heading to Delta to take on the best in B.C.  July 19-21.

The Ravens drew a short-straw, facing Surrey in a game starting at 7:15 a.m. on July 19.  The team was joined by Kari Martynyk from the Bantam C Ravens, who were eliminated from the playoffs the prior weekend. Surrey came out running and gunning as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the middle of the second period but a remarkable comeback saw the Ravens win 7-5. Goalie Will McLean was the Ravens game MVP.

With the first game in the books, the team had a long break before playing its second game Friday evening against Port Moody.

Port Moody started the scoring but goals by Quin Nelson, Liam Rivett and a Reilly Doney and Mason Osterhout-Code combination carried the Ravens to a 5-3 win. The game MVP was Nolan Fair.

Everyone got a good night’s sleep and was ready for another early morning game against Burnaby the next day.

The Ravens flew into the lead as Fair and Doney worked a give-and-go on the power-play with Doney putting a beauty backhand shot into the low corner of the goal.

The Ravens never looked back from there and went on to win 4-3, thanks to a last minute goal. Game MVP was Matt Leard.

The Ravens controlled their destiny to the best of their ability, finishing 3-0 and first in their pool at the end of the round-robin.

Traditionally, BC Lacrosse Association holds the opening ceremonies before the semi-final games begin. The divisional All-star award went to Fair for his all-around play and leadership and Jasper Osterhout-Code was presented with the Fair Play award. During the closing portion of the ceremonies, the Ravens learned they were playing Kelowna in a semi-final game in about an hour and a half.

The Bantam A2 Ravens, which began the season in Bantam B and were moved up to the A2 division, quickly got ready for the game.

In the semi-final game, Bryce Turko opened the scoring after taking a nice pass from Steve Rickman.

Four goals later and the Ravens were up 5-0 at the end of the first period.

Kelowna players seemed to become very motivated in the dressing room between periods and came out hungry, scoring two quick goals. But the Ravens pulled ahead with a power play goal by Lontayao.

Shortly after this, a Kelowna parent was ejected for having alcohol in the stands.  That may have been the same parent who was taunting McLean. Regardless, having been shut-out in the first period, Kelowna kept coming hard in the second. They scored two more even strength goals plus a power-play marker to make it 6-5 Ravens at the end of the second.  In the third, Kelowna was focused on completing its comeback.

Unfortunately for them, these Ravens had plans of their own.

Everyone played hard defence and kept the shooting lanes open for McLean to have a clean view of the ball. Kelowna’s parade to the penalty box continued and cost them a coach from their bench. Kelowna had a player in the penalty box but started to pull its goalie while heading onto the attack with about a minute and a half left to go. Fair grabbed a loose ball with less than 30 seconds to go and took it all the way back behind the Ravens net.

As they scrambled to get their goalie back onto the floor, Kelowna sent three players after Fair in an effort to get the ball, each arriving within milliseconds of one another.  He braced for the checks then fired an outlet pass to Lontayao at mid-floor.  Lontayao calmly caught it and passed it to Nelson who was standing in a corner deep in Kelowna’s zone.

He jogged towards the net and rolled it across the goal line into the empty net – 7-5 Ravens win.  Game number four MVP was Mason Osterhout-Code.

In the final game, the Ravens went head-to-head with Richmond which had an identical 4-0 record coming into the game.

The Ravens started the party with nice passing from Turko to Lontayao to Rivett to back-of-the-net. Richmond showed they would not go quietly as they quickly tied it at one.

By the end of the first period, the score was 5-2 for the Ravens.  Richmond crept a little closer as a rebound off the end boards hit McLean’s back and spun across the goal-line.

But Lontayao restored the three-goal lead making it 6-3 Ravens at the end of the second.  The Ravens were working hard at both ends of the floor and competing for every loose ball.  Again on the power play, Rivett put the biscuit in the basket to put the Ravens up 7-3.  Unfortunately, shortly after that Leard was injured by an undetected high stick. The force of the impact was so great that a name-plate came off of the Richmond player’s stick and was found in Leard’s helmet.

Paramedics arrived and took Leard via ambulance to nearby Delta Hospital for assessment. Both teams went to their respective dressing rooms while Leard was attended to by safety personnel and paramedics. Once play resumed in the third period, “Do it for Matt!” was a rallying cry from the stands.

Doney scored another power play goal to make it 8-3 but Richmond responded and got within one, to make it  8-6 Ravens.  In a move born of desperation and pulling out all stops, Richmond called for a measurement of McLean’s pads. Each team captain, McLean and the referee left the floor and went to the referees’ change room. The leg pads were confirmed to be legal so Richmond was assessed a delay of game penalty.

As time wound down, and with the Richmond goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Nelson fed the ball to Fair. The Ravens captain made no mistake as he scored into the empty-net goal to make the final score 9-6 for the Ravens in this gold medal game.

Leard was able to return to the arena and watched the last minute of the game.  He was selected Game number five MVP.  Prior to his injury, Leard was having an outstanding game including making some catches that were of the highlight reel variety and playing strong defence.

After Richmond received silver medals, the Booster Juice Bantam A2 Ravens were presented with their gold medals. While the announcer was concluding her remarks, she mentioned, “the Warrior tournament divisional MVP is from the gold-medal winning Campbell River Ravens. He’s the one wearing the big pads….”  The cheering from the stands and the floor was so loud that no-one heard his name called but goalie McLean earned this honour with his play in the tournament.

Coach Todd Fair said he was proud of the entire team for its accomplishment.

“I’m so grateful to our team manager, Kim Doney, to our parents, my assistant coaches and most of all, to all of our players,” Fair said. “Throughout the season, we have tried our best to instill in our players the team-first concepts that you need to be successful not only in sports but in life.

To share this with my youngest son, to see him grow as a leader and starting to learn from his mistakes…that’s really the icing on the cake. Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm as players like Kari and Matt accept the challenge of moving from Bantam C to Bantam A2 helps the coaches to stay focused.

All of our players have contributed to our team’s success, many in ways that aren’t measured on scoresheets. Sometimes when the team works together, it’s almost like watching the Harlem Globetrotters.

It’s really cool to see that type of team dynamic within a group of 13-and-14-year-old players. Several coaches and BCLA officials came up to me in this tournament to compliment us on our team play even before our semi-final game. I’d like to thank Sean Walmsley from Saanich and Team BC and also Raven alumni Matt Zeller.

They came to a couple of our practices at the outdoor lacrosse box and had a few tips that players applied throughout the tournament. We also want to thank the City of Campbell River, Strathcona Gardens, Booster Juice and all of the other sponsors of minor lacrosse in Campbell River. We really appreciate your support!”