The 2022 Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) season has been one for the books for the central division's Rockyview Silvertips.
The junior B Tier 1 Cochrane-based team finished the regular season as the top seed in their division for the first time in their 10-year history by a margin of six wins between them and the second-ranked Calgary Chill.
"As an organization, this is massive for us," said head coach Tyler Waycott. "We set out at the beginning of the year to be at the top of the division and it's always been a goal of ours to get here."
The 28-player roster now has the benefit of a first-round bye and a confidence boost as they head into playoffs, for which their first game will be July 22 at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) against either the Chill or Red Deer Rampage.
Now isn't the time to be kicking their feet up, however, Waycott stressed. Especially after a loss to the Manitoba Blizzard in their last game before going for divisional gold.
A successful shot on net by the 'Tips just after the third-period buzzer at SLSFSC July 9 would have tied the game 9-9, but the referee's final call that the buzzer had sounded kept the teams from continuing the contest into overtime.
Waycott said he trusts the official's decision on the play and believes that wouldn't have been the defining moment of the game, even if the call had been made in Rockyview's favour.
"You never want to lose the last game of the season, you want to end the season on the right foot by winning," he said. "We had a tough start and didn't play to our expectations in the first bit, but we feel confident and positive about how we ended and clawed back in the third period."
The Silvertips were down 7-3 heading into the last 20 minutes. They quickly turned the match back into a nail-biter with successful shots off the sticks of Carter Li with one goal, Owen MacCarthy with two goals and two assists, Noah Simonelli with one goal and one assist, and team captain Nolan Oakey with one goal and two assists.
Josh Halcro was the sole scorer for the home team in the first period and he also had one assist on Li's goal in the third. MacCarthy and Oakey each grabbed the remaining two goals in the second, assisted by Mason Schroeder and Nate Shaback, respectively.
"We climbed all the way back to make it a 9-8 game, so we're happy with the effort that we closed that game with," said Waycott. "We're going to take that effort and positive mindset into the next couple of weeks of preparation."
The team's playoff preparations have been further bolstered by a trade frenzy that took place before the RMLL's July 1 deadline.
Simonelli, formerly of the Calgary Chill, joined the team late last month as the fourth best scorer in the league overall. The 21-year-old has collected another six goals and four assists in his first three games since joining the 'Tips. In the regular season, he tied with his new teammate, Oakey, with 52 goals – although Oakey still leads the team in assists. Oakey's prolific scoring this summer set the Silvertips' all-time single-season points record.
Also recently joining the team was Gord Uddin from the Mountain View Mavericks.
Both players have given the Silvertips greater depth and have met different needs the team wanted to address, according to Waycott.
"We're very confident about the group in our dressing room and we believe that we've got something special – there's a great unity right now amongst the team," he said.
Silvertips team manager Darren Deitz said the team is on a good trajectory heading into playoffs with the experience of many fifth-year players on their side.
"We've got a lot of leaders in the dressing room. Whether they're wearing letters or not, these are some really mature, great guys," he said. "We're excited for them to be able to go out on a high note."