The Cowichan Thunder will go to the provincial bantam A2 lacrosse championships as Island champions, following a win over Saanich last Saturday.
“The boys played really well,” head coach Gord MacDonald said. “Saanich beat us at the start of the year, but the last couple of games at the end of the year, we beat them.”
Cowichan beat Saanich 5-2 in the Island final, which ended up being held in Parksville. Dawson Elzinga and unsung hero Owen Mackenzie led the way with two goals apiece, and Jake McCluskey added one.
“Owen played amazing,” MacDonald said. “He was unreal on offence and defence. It was crazy.”
Like the rest of the team, Mackenzie has come a long way this year.
“He never played A lacrosse before, but we picked him up because he’s big and fast,” MacDonald said. “He has really improved this year. He was the star of the game, for sure.”
Cowichan goalie Clayton Rankin also stepped up big in the Island final.
“It was back and forth,” MacDonald said. “Both goalies made a ton of stops. Clayton kept us in it. Our defence was good. We just ended up with three more goals than them at the end.”
Both Cowichan and Saanich had already qualified for the provincial championships, which will be held in Parksville and Nanaimo starting this Thursday. Saanich is in a different pool from Cowichan, but MacDonald wouldn’t be surprised to see a rematch of the Island title game somewhere along the way.
“I imagine if we make the semi or further, we’ll see them again,” he said.
Many of the same players on the Cowichan bantam team won bronze medals at the last two peewee provincials, losing to the eventual B.C. champions in the semifinals both times. MacDonald thinks his team can go a step farther this time.
“If they play like they did the last three games, we should be able to,” MacDonald said.
To reach the Island final and qualify for provincials, the Thunder swept the best-of-three semifinal series against Comox, winning 6-4 at the Island Savings Centre on June 24 and 8-4 at Kerry Park Arena on June 25.
“The boys are playing really well right now, at the right time of the year,” MacDonald commented.
Josh MacDonald scored Cowichan’s first three goals in the first game, with Austin Webb, Elzinga and McCluskey following up.
MacDonald and McCluskey each scored twice in the second game, while Elzinga, Webb, Keegan Martin and Parker Klippenstein had one apiece.