Irish eyes were smiling on the first Founders’ Cup champion to come out of Alberta in a decade.
Okotoks goalie Jared Ferris and the Calgary Shamrocks edged the Six Nations Rebels 16-15 in an epic final Sunday in Winnipeg to take home the Founders’ Cup – the Jr. B national lacrosse championship.
“It means a lot, especially to our fifth years that are graduating,” said Ferris, a 2019 graduate of Holy Trinity Academy, a third year on the squad. “What a game to go out on as your last game in junior.
“It shows that Alberta’s lacrosse is one of the top in the country and that we’re able to compete with anybody out there.”
The Shamrocks join the 2009 Calgary Mountaineers and 1999 Edmonton Miners as the only Alberta champions in the history of the Founders’, ending a nine-year reign by Ontario teams atop the national podium.
Six Nations made it interesting in the third period, cutting a five-goal deficit and coming within one goal of forcing overtime. The Rebels had the final possession and the extra-attacker with less than 30 seconds left to keep their dreams alive.
“It was kind of a scary moment when I looked up and they had a timeout with 26 seconds left and they pulled the goalie,” Ferris said. “It went by super quick, it was nerve-racking at the start of it, but once I made those last couple saves and we got the ball with 1.2 seconds left all those nerves went away.”
The Rebels came close on two occasions on the final possession with Ferris squeezing the pads with one shot ending up in his equipment.
“It was just shock, we expected to get this far, but it was just surreal for everybody,” Ferris said. “We couldn’t believe it actually happened and it all paid off, but it was pretty unreal.”
Calgary stormed out to a 6-3 advantage through 20 and had 15-10 lead entering the third period. Six Nations hit four straight goals leading to the nail-biting finish.
Shamrocks seniors Colby Fraser, Cordell Hastings and Dylan Ferrier each scored four goals in the victory.
“They went on a bit of a run so the guys knew we had to push through to the end of the period,” Ferris said. “They knew Six Nations was going to try to push to get it to overtime or win the game.
“It was really just a mental thing and trying not to breakdown and stick to what we’re used to do and the fundamentals.”
The Shamrocks and Rebels met one-day prior in the round-robin finale with both teams already assured a spot in the championship match.
Calgary played a bit of possum in the first meeting, a 19-3 win for the Rebels, and the impact was certainly felt in the final.
“In that first game we didn’t play most of our offensive guys,” said Ferris, who did not play in the first match with the Rebels. “We had moved a couple guys around on offence and moved them to defence and other way around as well. We didn’t want Six Nations to know exactly what we’re going to bring to the table for the final game.
“We definitely wanted to throw them off a little bit and it for sure worked.”
With Ferris in goal the Shamrocks won their first five games of the national competition, blowing out the Saskatchewan SWAT 23-9, outlasting the Seneca War Chiefs 16-5, dispatching the North Shore Kodiaks 12-5, triumphing over the host Manitoba Blizzard 17-6 and exacting a measure of revenge in handling the Coquitlam Adanacs by a 16-6 score.
“Throughout the week we were beating teams by quite a bit which was good to see,” Ferris said. “The guys, the whole week were in the groove and were connecting and the coaches were doing an unreal job scouting for us and doing what they can to help the team.
“It all clicked together in that final game. Our whole plan put itself to work.”
The Shammies finished fifth at the 2018 Founders’ Cup, but with experience on their side had a much different experience on the return trip to nationals.
“You kind of knew what to expect when you came into the tournament,” Ferris said. “For the guys that went last year, they were expecting the team to come out hard. Especially against B.C. since they knocked us out last year, that was the one game that pushed the guys from last year to really make it past that and get redemption from that one.”