By Martin Boyce
The Nepean Knights will get the chance to play spoiler when they meet their local crosstown counterparts from Gloucester in a home-and-home to close their Ontario Jr. ‘B’ Lacrosse League season on June 16 and 17.
It’s been a largely disappointing campaign for both local sides. The Knights opened with 11 straight losses before rising to a better 3-4 pace, while the 7-11 Gloucester Griffins are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 4 years.
“We came out of the gate pretty sluggish this year,” signals Gloucester head coach Jeremy Kearns. “We’ve had our fair share of injuries, so that hasn’t helped.”
While back-to-back matches against the bottom team in the division might seem like a treat with the season on the line, Kearns says they’ll need a consistent effort to knock off the Knights, who always provide a stiff challenge regardless of circumstance.
The Griffins need to leapfrog a pair of teams with 2 more points than them – Orillia (who have 3 games remaining) and Brampton (1 left). Kearns would like some of the team’s younger players to learn from this season’s struggles.
“I hope they can grow to learn not everyone’s a lock for the playoffs,” he highlights.
It’s all about building for the Knights too, notes Matt Firth, the team’s coach as well as its new owner.
That includes building a strong following and community around the team, adds Firth, who’s been keen to organize initiatives like pre-game tailgate parties featuring meet-and-greets with the Knights, and honouring local minor lacrosse teams and players for their accomplishments.
“I want to build a strong lacrosse culture and make it a place where players want to be,” underlines the past Capital Region Axemen senior lacrosse player, noting he wants to keep Ottawa’s top lacrosse players at home once they reach junior age.
Ottawa native Callum Crawford, a 12-year National Lacrosse League veteran, will have to wait at least one more year to win his desired first NLL title. His Colorado Mammoth were eliminated in the semi-finals of the NLL playoffs by the Saskatchewan Rush, who went on to lose in the final to the Georgia Swarm.