U18 Lightning step up in Island title game

The U18 Mid Island Lightning elevated their play for their most important game so far this season.

The U18 Mid Island Lightning elevated their play for their most important game so far this season as they clobbered North Island 15-8 to take the Island field lacrosse championship last Saturday.

“It was probably our best team game of the year,” head coach Dan Cleemoff said. “Everyone played well defensively. We moved the ball around well on offence; we had lots of opportunities, lots of shots. Their goalie was good, but we persevered.”

The players, Cleemoff said, maintained a positive attitude all day and stayed relaxed, which helped them take the Island title. Even though they had a berth in provincials locked up by virtue of reaching the Island final, they weren’t going to settle for that.

“We were still going to provincials, but we wanted to win our way in,” Cleemoff said. “Our goal all year was to get to provincials. We knew we were going to go [after beating Nanaimo in the semifinal], so it’s easy to fall back on that. North Island beat us by one point in the league standings — they were first and we were second — so we wanted to show them we could beat them.”

The Lightning took a 3-1 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. It was 5-3 at halftime and 11-3  after three quarters.

Thomas Vaesen led the way offensively with five goals, including three in the third quarter. Jaeden Ashbee and Brayden Zunti both had hat tricks, Mathieu Jung scored twice, and Colton Lidstone and Jacob Taylor each had singles. Parker Teufel was solid in net, while the Lightning’s other goalie,  Kain Stewart, despite being out with a concussion from the semifinal, came to the game and helped out on the bench.

Mid Island’s goal for the provincial tournament in Langley on Feb. 5-8  is to come home with a medal after just barely missing out last year, falling by a single goal in double overtime in the battle for bronze. This year’s team has a few new faces, but is still determined to improve on last year’s result.

“I think we have it in us to medal,” Cleemoff said. “I think we can get right in there. If we play like we did on Saturday, we can beat anybody.”

The U13 and U15 Lightning teams also reached their Island finals, but came away empty-handed. Regardless, both will still be playing in the provincials as well.

The U13s lost 8-3 to Vic Field in the Island championship.

“We beat those guys all year, but they snuck one up on us,” coach Bill Sanderson lamented.

Brandon Carlson scored all three goals for Mid Island. The team is loaded with younger players who played their best, but were outmatched last weekend.

“Our team has seven U11s, and none of the other teams have one, to my knowledge,” Sanderson said. “Some of them have just turned 10, and are playing against 13-year-olds. The U11s were braver than brave to go out and play against some of those kids. It will make them even better when they get into their own age groups.”

Sanderson still believes his team can contend at provincials.

“We’ll see what the Mainland teams have,” he said. “We can beat Vic. We just weren’t in it last weekend.”

The U15 Lightning were beaten 11-6 by Nanaimo last Saturday. Hunter Hieta scored twice for Mid Island, while Brody Black, Denton Macdonald, Sam Baxter and Nolan Thibedeau had one apiece, and Colin Jeffrey added an assist.

Mid Island got off to a strong start, scoring at the 14-second and two-minute marks, and led 3-2 at the end of the first quarter. Nanaimo held the Lightning to a single goal in each quarter after that.

The U13 and U15 teams will also be in Langley on Feb. 5-8 for their provincial tournaments.