Devils prepare for a lacrosse Assault
The way Matt Rochon has it figured, if the Northland Nissan Assault can somehow pull the rug out from the feet of Westwood Pub Devils snipers Kyle McInstosh and Andrew Schwab, the Assault will do the unexpected and win the Prince George Senior Lacrosse Association championship.
Failing that, the best-of-five final series which start tonight (8 p.m.) at Kin 1 might be a rough ride for Rochon and his teammates.
The 27-year-old Rochon was in the stands at Kin 1 last Thursday to watch McIntosh and Schwab finish off the RPR Mechanical/ JR Construction Bandits in the third and deciding game of their best-of-three semifinal series. Schwab scored four goals himself and McInstosh ended up with two goal and four points in a 10-6 victory.
“I think it’s going to be a good series,” said Rochon.
“We’re definitely the underdogs but I think if we bring a full team we’ll surprise a lot of people. It’s looking like we’re going to have a full bench. We just need our numbers and we should be fine.
“We went 3-1 with the Bandits this year so we figure if they can beat (the Devils) we should be able to get a couple games on them.”
Unlike the Bandits, who hung two losses on the Devils this season, the Assault has yet to figure out how to stop the Westwood boys, who have relied on full-roster turnouts for games and a season-long willingness to work out the bugs in practice to run roughshod over the rest of the league. Thursday’s playoff win improved the Devils record to 17-2 this season. The Assault struggled at times to get enough bodies and finished the regular season 9-7, then swept Mackenzie in a two-game semifinal playoff series.
Led by Doug Porter’s 35-goal, 63-point contribution, the Assault scored 150 in 16 regular season games. Rochon was far off that pace, with 33 goals and 59 points in just 11 games.
Dave Jenkins Jr. has lost some the speed that a decade ago got him to senior A in the Western Lacrosse Association but he still has the smarts to be a superb setup man and he can still fire ’em, totaling 22 goals 32 assists and 54 points in just nine regular season games. His longtime counterpart Clarke Anderson was limited by a leg injury to just four games but responded with four goals and 14 points.
They’ll need to be firing on target to counter the arsenal the Devils have at their disposal with the likes of Andrew Schwab, the PGSLA scoring champion, Colton Poulin, Danton Nicholson and McIntosh, who lit it up with 10 goals and 15 points in three games leading up to the playoffs.
“Jake McIntosh and Andrew Schwab are the two biggest guys we have to worry about on the offensive side,” said Rochon.
Kyle Frederick and Russill Mills provide the Assault capable goaltending and could steal the spotlight from Patrick Bayliss, the Devils’ new starting ballstopper, who has Jamie Bellamy to back him in net.
The Devils have won the league the past two seasons and are heavy favourites to complete their threepeat.
They need three more wins over the Assault to accomplish that and represent the league in the senior C provincial championship, July 26-28 at Kin 1.
“They have great offence, they move the ball around really well and they have big guys on defence who like to hit hard and after that series we’re going to be sore so it’s going to be tough going into it,” said Schwab.
“It’s going to be a tough battle for sure. They don’t like to give the middle of the floor up too easily.
“But our D is, hands-down, the best in the league and I’m just glad I don’t have to play against them. Scotty Anderson is the train that never stops, he gives everything to his team. Any loose ball he’s got it, he’s the strongest guy out there.”
While they’ve added some significant new pickups like McIntosh, Bayliss and defenceman Jeff Moleski, the core of the Devils has remained together and according to Schwab that’s what makes them a good team.
“This is pretty much the same team we’ve had for three years on these championship runs,” said Schwab.
“Everyone relies on each other and trusts each other and you know where the other guy’s going to be out there.”
Game 2 will be played Thursday night at Kin 1. The series resumes next week with games Monday and, if necessary, Wednesday and Thursday.
Westwood Pub Devils player Patrick Bayliss gets a shot on goal while fighting off the check of a Northland Nissan Assault defender during a regular season game in June at Kin 1.