If the 2019 box lacrosse season is any indication, the Rockyview Silvertips junior B team is re-writing its history.
The Cochrane-based club reached a franchise high by overcoming the Calgary Chill in the first round of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) junior B Tier 1 playoffs, July 17 to 19.
According to team manager Darren Deitz, it was the first time the Silvertips has won a playoff series in a decade. The accomplishment vaulted the team into the Central Division championship series against the Red Deer Rampage, and earned it a berth to the RMLL’s Junior B Tier 1 championship tournament, which took place July 26 to 28 (after press time).
“We’re super excited,” said head coach Derrick Henry. “The guys who have been here for four or five years, they were pretty pumped up for the next round.”
The Silvertips qualified for its second consecutive playoffs on the back of a successful regular season that saw the team claim 11 wins from its 20 games.
Only one of those wins came against the Chill – a team that has, historically, always beaten the Silvertips, and was the foe that quickly ousted the ‘Tips from the opening round of the post-season in 2018.
Playing the Chill in the first round of playoffs offered the Silvertips a shot at redemption.
The series could hardly have started worse for Rockyview – playing in Calgary July 17, the Chill dominated the ‘Tips, winning 13-2. The team’s only goals came from rookie Hunter McChesney and Josh Halcro.
“We basically didn’t show up,” Henry said.
But the ‘Tips made up for the setback the following night in Cochrane, when it played the Chill off the floor and left the rink as 13-4 victors.
“We went back to Cochrane and told the guys, ‘It’s win or go home,’” Henry said. “We weren’t ready to go home and we believed in them, and numerous people stepped up.”
One of those players was McChesney, who recorded a hat trick to maintain his impressive performance in his first RMLL playoff series. Others included Jacob Berg, Ryan Gulutzan and Josh Halcro, who each chipped in with two-goal performances.
The Silvertips took the momentum into the third and deciding game July 19. In a back-and-forth encounter, the Silvertips made franchise history by overcoming the Chill 9-8.
Henry said the rubber game was a true battle.
“That was a game a lot of people should have watched,” he said. “The Chill played well and didn’t give up. We were up 4-1 after the first and 7-4 after the second. Fortunately, our guys held them off.”
Given the Silvertips’ lackluster results against the Chill in previous years, Henry said, this season shows how far Rockyview has come. In seven games, the ‘Tips recorded three wins against Calgary.
“Next year, it’s a clean slate – those games [against the Chill] are anyone’s games, and it will be a fun, heated rivalry to coach and be a part of,” he said. “The teams respect each other a lot – you could see that in the hand shakes at the end of the season.”
By beating the Chill, the Silvertips punched its ticket to face the division-leading Red Deer Rampage July 21 and 22 for the Central Division title. It was a one-sided series from the get-go, however, as the Rampage swept the Silvertips 10-2 and 11-9.
"Red Deer has a good transition game and they scored a lot of goals because of it,” said Gulutzan, a fourth-year Silvertips veteran. “Playing them in our last two games, we know they're a beatable team if we shut down their transition game.”
Despite the loss, the Silvertips’ season wasn’t over yet. Since the Rampage hosted this year’s RMLL Jr. B Tier 1 championship tournament, Henry said, the Silvertips qualified as the Central Division’s representative – another first for the program.
“I hope now this changes people’s opinions on the Silvertips,” he said. “This team will battle. I hope the guys are going to get the respect they’ve earned.”
The RMLL Jr. B Tier 1 championship tournament kicked off July 26 to 28 in Red Deer and will conclude Aug. 2 to 4.
–With files from Troy Durrell/CochraneTODAY.ca