Well, it had to happen eventually.
A remarkable seven-year unbeaten run in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) came to an end for the Airdrie Mohawks senior C men's lacrosse team on June 17, when they fell 8-5 to the Olds Stingers.
While the Mohawks have been defeated in tournament play and lost an exhibition game in 2021, last week's defeat marked the first time since July 2015 that Airdrie has lost to an RMLL opponent during the regular season or divisional playoffs.
“I think we all kind of felt like it was going to come to an end at some point,” said Gareth Barley, a player/coach with the Mohawks. “We knew it would, but with how vastly improved the Olds team is this year, it’s awesome [to have the competition]. In talking with some of their players and coaching staff, they’re glad they could give us a push earlier in the year – and they gave us a big push, handing us our first loss.”
Barley added the loss shows the gap in quality between the Mohawks and other senior C teams is getting smaller each year, and the division is getting more competitive overall.
“Teams are starting to improve and are playing at a level that we have maybe been playing at for a few years,” he said. “Olds is always adding a few new players every year – they’re a younger team and the games this year against them have been very competitive.”
Prior to last Friday, Airdrie's senior C team's last defeat in an RMLL match was in July 2015. Their nearly-seven-year win streak had lasted 80 games and saw the 'Hawks claim four consecutive RMLL senior C championships from 2016 to 2019. (The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the season in 2020 and a modified, exhibition season in 2021).
Speaking to the team's ongoing dynasty in Alberta, Barley said the Mohawks are a tight-knit group of players who bring a wealth of lacrosse experience to each game. In the past, he said it's been an unofficial rule that players need to have played at least one year of senior B in the past in order to play for the Mohawks.
“For years now, the majority of us have played together and the majority have played senior B, so we’re a little bit more experienced,” he said. “I think once we got to two or three seasons undefeated, we just wanted to keep it going.”
Barley said the Mohawks players are not too fazed by the recent defeat, dubbing it a necessary reset as the 2022 season enters the homestretch and the squad prepares for the playoffs.
“Our guys aren’t upset,” Barley said. “[Olds] worked hard. A lot of our guys were congratulating them, and there were some high-fives and good sportsmanship between guys who have played against each other for years.”
Despite the setback, the Mohawks remain comfortably in first place in the RMLL senior C league's south division thanks to their 8-1 record, with two regular-season games left on their schedule.
Airdrie followed up the defeat with a 10-5 win over the Calgary Bears during a Father's Day match on June 21.
Fittingly, Airdrie's next game will see them take on Olds again, this time at home, on June 26. Opening face-off is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Plainsmen Arena in Airdrie.
“I’m sure it will be another tough game,” Barley said. “I expect it to be a little more rough and physical. They’ll want to beat us again and our guys won’t want to lose. I believe it’s their last game of the year and we still have one more after that.
Depending how the playoffs shake up, Barley added Sunday might not be the last time the Mohawks and Stingers take each other on in 2022.
“They have some momentum and put themselves into a playoff spot,” he said. “We could be seeing them in the south final again, so it’s probably not the last time we’ll see them this year.”