a very big thanks to Kirby Upshaw (pictured) and Ryan Degerdon for providing some insight to everyone back home….
Our journey to the Founders Cup 2009 began early on Sunday morning. A staggered and tired team piled into our bright yellow bus and began our trip to the airport. Arriving at Pearson Airport we quickly discovered who was a morning person and who wasn’t. Led by our knowledgeable yet childish coaching staff; the plane ride proved to be a great location for personal pranks. We started with the emergency landing prank, hanging an air mask above our sleeping teammates and waking them to us yelling and the mask hanging. Then the sleep poking with various objects, needless to say I don’t think anyone will be sleeping on the fly home. With us wide awake and on Edmonton ground, we set out on our lacrosse free day.
One solid day without the worry of lacrosse, we jumped off the bus got our rooms assigned and began to unpack. The majority of the team was unpacked and ready to hit the town when they were slowed down by one little sign that says “Water Park.” Quickly the need to be grown up and mature went out the window at the sight of a water slide. Nothing seemed more hilarious to the other occupants of the hotel then seeing a massive group of young men all together and sliding down into the water giggling. I don’t think our coaches will respect us as adults anymore
Monday, our first game day, began bright and early with a team breakfast and talk, during which we were given our daily plans for the week, making sure that everyone was aware of what would be expected from us. The most important of which was sleep. Even though given time to get rest it seemed insufficient as a result of our performance. Coming out slow and rather shaking, we worked hard to undo kinks and slow legs. Whether it was the nerves or the delay of the opening ceremonies it took us almost the whole game to begin to show a little bit of what the Green Gaels have to offer. The game quickly became extremely rough. The first five minutes of the first period our captain Johnny Lafontaine suffered a very controversial slash to the mouth and face creating a cut that begins at his upper nose and extends down to his lower lip. With the game escalating it was almost a countdown to when Head Coach Jason Crosbie would be ejected from the bench, this occurred late in the third period. Fighting every motion we made, we managed to walk away from the game with our first victory. We, as a team decided to put that game behind us and work towards being better for the next games.
Tuesday began with a slightly different approach to the day. A team meal and quick outdoor warm up got the team mentally ready for the upcoming game. Switching floors in the arena, gave us a brighter area to play on. The game started off with a couple quick goals and a few nice plays, after which the game changed dramatically and slowed down for the majority of the first two periods. The score remained relatively the same, our systems became sloppy and at some point were nonexistent. Our shoes were apparently made of stone and we coasted through with our small lead. During intermission our coaches gave us the motivational speech but with a little twist. Due to the fact we were winning and seemed relatively okay as far as game play it made it hard for us to want to drive to be the team we are known to be-the record shattering hard hitting fast pace Clarington Green Gaels which is who our coaches wanted us to be. With that said we returned to the floor in our typical Gaels style lead by our moustache connoisseur Steve Bourden and the lack of facial hair assistant captain Kirby Upshaw for our traditional floor entrance. Right off the first face off we scored a quick goal. Then one after another till our lead became more and more. We finished the game with a solid score of 16-6 which was enough to make us happy for the time being.
Wednesday is probably the biggest day of the round robin for us Green Gaels. Everyone has been talking about how the Calgary Mountaineers are going to be our true test and that they might even beat us. The morning starts with some players waking up early and getting breakfast down at the hotel’s restaurant Smitty’s, while other players just decide to catch up on some sleep and feel well-rested for the day. Our day starts at 10 am by all players and coaches meeting down in the lobby with our lax twigs and heading out to a field, to get a little run in and get the blood flowing and sticks moving. It lasts for about an hour and Coach Crosbie lets us know that we have a team lunch at 1pm before our big tilt against Calgary at 6pm.
When lunch rolls around and everyone is together you have a sense that we’re in good spirits and that we’re ready for tonight’s game. On the menu for today is either chicken parmesan and some pasta or just a nice big bowl of pasta mixed with some ground beef. After the lunch, Crosbie and the coaching staff recommend to us to rest up and sleep and don’t do anything too strenuous to our bodies before the game. Most players oblige to the rule, as the hallways and rooms are quieter than usual with most players resting and focusing on tonight’s game.
Around 3:45pm the hallways and rooms are alive again with players getting ready to catch the bus at 4pm to head to the rink. As we warm-up the atmosphere of the players feels good and that we’re ready to go. When game time comes it seems as though us Gaels are ready to prove that we’re the team to beat and no one is getting in our way. The first period is shaky at every end of the floor and just nothing was going right for us as we head back to the room down 4-3 after the first period.
Matt Chamois our back-up goalie acknowledges that he didn’t play too well and that he’ll do better the next two periods. The coaches aren’t too hard on us about our sub-par performance in the first and just tell us to pick it up in the second and that we’ll be fine.
The second period is not a good one at all, with the exception of Matt Chamois who keeps his promise by only allowing one goal that period. Problem is though, the offence could get nothing going and we can only manage one goal that period as well. We head into the break down 5-4.
The coaches are disappointed and are almost lost as how to motivate us and get us to play our game the way we can. Our 21 year-old veteran Ryan Degerdon, who has missed the whole season due to a broken leg suffered in his first game back with Gaels at the beginning of the season, stands up and tells us that we are in the Founders Cup, the National Championship, and that there is just no emotion in the room or on the floor and that this is what we’ve all worked for all year is to play in this tournament to prove that we’re the best Jr.B team in Canada.
The players seemed to get fired up listening to their veteran, and it shows on the floor with us Gaels dominating the third period by firing six goals in the final frame, and with the defence and Matt Chamois playing phenomenal, by allowing only one goal. Our room is ecstatic after playing so well, but Crosbie warns us that we’re playing with fire if we only keep showing up in the third period to play teams. The team agrees and we all shower up and head back to the hotel for the rest of the night and take it easy as we have a game the next day at 11 am against the Onondaga Redhawks.
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