BC Games field lacrosse team makes Prince George sports history

Cariboo-Northeast brings field lacrosse to Prince George for the very first games on home turf

For the second field lacrosse game of his life Friday afternoon, Cariboo Northeast goalie Breton MacPherson left his thigh pads and shin pads in his gear bag.

He may have looked vulnerable in the crease with his bare legs peeking out of his shorts, but the 15-year-old from Fort St. John didn’t show his fear despite being almost constantly attacked by the Boys in Green, aka Vancouver Island Central Coast,.

MacPherson figured that on a muggy day at the BC Summer Games at Glen Thompson Field, bruising and scraping was better than overheating. He fought a losing battle as he tried to keep cool in the sun, which was well above 30C, and his opponents bombarded him with shot after shot. The beleaguered keeper did what he could to stop all those rubber ball howitzers, but the visitors found the net frequently and walked away in a 23-0 win.

“I have a lot of shots, but I’m used to getting 40 or 50 shots a game at Fort St. John,” MacPherson said. “But it’s a strange pitch because I’ve only had four practice sessions and one game before, so I’m pretty proud of myself.

“It’s scary, especially with the (bare) arms. I can wear elbow pads and shin pads but I won’t, it’s too hot. I wore sweatpants to the first game and I was dying it was so hot. These guys are phenomenal. We’ve never played field lacrosse, and some of these guys are on the provincial team. It was crazy but it was fun. Maybe we’ll score a goal in the next game, we’re working on that.”

On Friday, Cariboo-Northeast made sports history when they became the first local team to play field lacrosse on Prince George’s lawn, a 20-0 loss to Fraser River.

The Iceland boys had several multiple goalscorers and Jax Heavenor led by four goals while Ethan Gordon had a three goal game. Goaltender Ryland Thompson had just one save to make, coming off Kobe Kidd’s stick midway through the second half.

“It was a tough game for them, it won’t be close the second time around,” said Victoria midfielder Oscar Scott, 15, one of three provincial players in the Vancouver Island squad. “We’re two years older and have a height difference and more experience.

“It’s just good that they have a team that comes here and plays and hopefully they will make progress in the future.”

Cohen Bloom, 12, played defense for Cariboo-Northeast and this weekend’s tournament is his first chance to play with a six-foot stick.

“It was just fun,” Bloom said. “It’s just funnier outside.

“We won a few faceoffs and did better on defense than we did in the first game. It’s much harder than box lacrosse defense. You can reach with the longsticks and that makes it a bit easier.”

Vancouver Island-Central head coach Kaleb Toth, who played 13 seasons in the National Lacrosse League for the Toronto Rock and Calgary Roughnecks, knew his team would be made up of mostly 2007-born players against a team of mostly 2009-born athletes, one of whom none, with the exception of Oliver Da Silveira of Quesnel, had played field lacrosse. Vancouver Island is one of the favorites to advance to the medal round playoffs, which begin with the semifinals at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday

While most box lacrosse kids up north play hockey or basketball during the fall and winter, the field lacrosse season in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island runs from September through February. The Toth BC Games team grew up playing outdoors and made the choice to play for their school and/or community teams. If they are good enough as older teens, they can continue playing past high school.

“The chance for Canadians to get a field lacrosse scholarship (in the NCAA) is greater than the chance to get a hockey scholarship,” said Toth, whose son Deo plays on the BC Games team. “There are a lot of American players out there, but they like the Canadian players because they’re not afraid to go in the middle to get hit. That’s the box lacrosse in us.”

At least two Prince George players, Cole Paciejewski and Leif Paulson, went on to play field lacrosse in the NCAA.

Cariboo-Northeast includes four players from Fort St. John, four from Quesnel, and seven from Prince George. The age range for BC Games in field lacrosse is 14-15, but only two players in that age group originally signed up for the team, and head coach Tony De Gans had to open it up to younger players just to have enough for the tournament. They watched their first field lacrosse game Friday morning when Fraser Valley faced Vancouver-Coastal in the opener of the BC Game tournament.

“We almost played (the first) game without seeing a game first, and you have to see a game to know how it’s played,” De Gans said. “We had one of our first team training sessions (on Thursday) where all these guys (who play on Vancouver Island) have been playing together for eight or 10 years. We show up early and stay late to watch the teams.

“We are here to learn, gain experience and have fun. It’s a much larger field (compared to box lacrosse). It’s more of a possession and strategy game than a run-and-gun reaction. One of our talents is that we’re a fast team and we play hard. We just don’t have the experience of decoding defenses yet.”

It wasn’t until he went to the University of Alberta at Edmonton that De Gans discovered field lacrosse at the club level. Northern BC has never had a smaller lacrosse program and he’s hoping this weekend’s presentation in Prince George as one of the sports of the 18 BC Summer Games will get the ball rolling in a fall outdoor league for kids.

Cariboo-Northeast will play its final game of the six-team tournament Saturday at 4:00 p.m. against the other third-place finisher in the pool, Thompson-Okanagan. In the championship round, the two semi-final losers meet bronze at 8am on Sunday, followed by the gold medal match at 9.30am

Leave a Comment