Regals, Mohawks ready to get season started

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Ontario junior B lacrosse rivals Guelph Regals and Elora Mohawks are set to open their 2017 season against one another Saturday night at the Elora and District Community Centre and both are ready to go.

Both have had a few practices this week after getting their first taste of game action last weekend. The Regals defeated the Wallaceburg Red Devils 8-4 in a physical match in Kitchener while the Mohawks had two wins and a tie in their own preseason tournament. Elora defeated the Owen Sound North Stars 6-4, tied the Windsor Clippers 8-8 and blanked the London Blue Devils 7-0 in games that featured 15-minute straight time periods.

Both teams are also entering the season with new coaches – Keith Begley for the Regals and Kyle Goss for the Mohawks.

“They didn’t quit,” Begley said of his Regals following the preseason tilt. “That’s something you can’t teach them so it’s good to have. It’s easy to work with guys that are willing to put themselves on the line for each other.”

The game gave the Regals’ coaching staff a chance to see the natural tendencies of the players as there were no set plays and players were tried in various positions.

“We saw what they can do and what they bring to the table,” Begley said. “The effort’s there and the attitude’s there. Now we just work and put them in the right spots and we move forward.

“We let them go to see what they can show. I think we’ve just got to get them to play as a team. Being young, they don’t understand off-ball so we’ll get them working on some off-ball stuff.”

The Regals worked on those things at practice this week.

“The practices are very positive,” Begley said. “The kids are working hard and it shows. From Day 1 to now, it’s 100 per cent better and they want to be out there and play.”

For the Mohawks, the preseason tournament gave them a chance to get used to one another.

“We’ve got a lot of guys coming from all over basically – four different towns and cities,” Goss said. “It’s real important for them to bond and get to know each other off the floor as well as getting to know each other on the floor with lacrosse.”

And the coach left the arena feeling pretty good about his squad.

“Getting to see them in a game situation is definitely a lot different than practice,” he said. “It was a lot better than I expected. I expected good things, but it was even better. We saw a lot of young kids that are real hungry and we saw a lot of veteran guys that showed they still want to be here. It was very positive.”

Both the Regals and Mohawks qualified for the playoffs last season and that’s the first goal for both this year.

“I hope to be a contender,” Goss said. “Elora hasn’t really been as successful as they were a few years ago and our goal is just to get better. I think at the end of the day if you’re in the Elora Mohawks organization, you should be planning for a championship in my opinion. We’re going to strive for that but we’re going to take it slow and we’re going to take it step by step and see what we can do.”

Last year the Mid West Division was the only one of the league’s six divisions that saw all of its teams qualify for the playoffs. The Orangeville Northmen finished atop the division at 18-2-0 while the Regals and Mohawks had identical 11-9-0 records and Own Sound was fourth at 8-10-2.

“This has been the toughest division in junior B on the western side for a while here. There are a lot of good lacrosse towns and I don’t expect it any different this year,” Goss said. “It prepares you for the playoffs. It makes every division game huge and it makes it intense and that’s the fun stuff in lacrosse.”

While Elora has won 14 of the 26 regular-season meetings between the teams from the 2009 season on – the Regals won eight and four were tied – the teams have battled fairly evenly throughout four of the last five years. Throwing away Guelph’s disastrous 2014 campaign when the Regals won once all season, the Regals have won seven of the 12 meetings with the Mohawks.

This will be the fourth time in six years that the teams have meet in their season openers and the third consecutive year it’s happened. Guelph won 17-9 last year at Cambridge, Elora won 10-6 in 2015 at the Victoria Road arena and the Regals won 16-15 at home in 2012.

Game time Saturday at Elora is 7 p.m.