Lacrosse Offers Fascinating Sports Attractions

John Gilbert

 

Chaos? No, lacrosse. Hermantown-Proctor's Cody Une (5) shielded the ball from Duluth Wolfpack Erik Hokans during their Section 7A quarterfinal. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Chaos? No, lacrosse. Hermantown-Proctor's Cody Une (5) shielded the ball from Duluth Wolfpack Erik Hokans during their Section 7A quarterfinal. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Wolfpack star Jayden Erie bounced a shot through the goalie's feet and up into the net for his third goal in the 9-6 victory over Hermantown-Proctor. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Wolfpack star Jayden Erie bounced a shot through the goalie's feet and up into the net for his third goal in the 9-6 victory over Hermantown-Proctor. Photo credit: John Gilbert

 

When girls hockey started in Minnesota, it was probably the fastest growing sport in decades at the Minnssota State High School League, and it grew from zero in a remarkably short number of years. This year, lacrosse is making even more dramatic launch, drawing both boys and girls athletes to an unusual but exciting game that dazzles the senses and inspires people to want to play.

They played a game on the Ordean East football field last week, on a chilly night, and it featured lots of goals, never-ending action, and all of the public school teams in the Duluth area. The Wolfpack, a team that combines players from East and Denfeld, took on the Stealth, a combined team of Hermantown and Proctor.

The Wolfpack won, 9-6, to advance in the Section 7 tournament where they had to go on the road to the Twin Cities. They lost that Monday night match 14-6 to Blaine, but their season was a rousing success at 11-4.

Lacrosse is an ancient game, reportedly enjoyed by Native Americans centuries ago, and which combines some of the finer attributes of soccer, football, hockey, field hockey, rugby, baseball and…mayhem.

You send out a couple of teams of aggressive young athletes and arm them with sticks that have little basket-like things on the end trying to possess a little ball, about the size of a tennis ball but smooth and harder. They can run around as in soccer, pass the ball to each other much like soccer, although flipping it from your little basket to their little basket takes considerable talent — as much to make a pass as to catch one. There is that goal, smaller than a soccer goal and defended by a goalie.

 

Josh Jonnson, left, of the Wolfpack, battled Hermantown-Proctor's Tanner Carlson for possession. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Josh Jonnson, left, of the Wolfpack, battled Hermantown-Proctor's Tanner Carlson for possession. Photo credit: John Gilbert

 

There are officials, and they will call penalties for things such as slashing, cross-checking and other hockey-seeming infractions, but the players don’t wear pads, just helmets with face masks.

In their playoff showdown, the teams were tied 1-1 after one 12-minute quarter, and well into the second one when the Wolfpack erupted for three goals before halftime. At the start of the third quarter, leading 4-1, the Wolfpack struck for a goal by Jayden Erie.

Hermantown-Proctor rallied, with a goal by Matt Bonfigt a minute and a half later, then another, by Noah Strecker with 4:37 left in the third quarter, closed the gap to 5-3. But before the third quarter ended, Will Smyth scored with 3:59 left after an end to end rush, and a half-minute later Erie scored again to make it 7-3. Riley Johnson made it 8-3 with another goal with only 25.9 seconds to go in the quarter

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack scored one of the more intriguing goals of the game when Erie carried the ball up the left side, circled behind the net and came out on the right. While fighting off a heavy check, he held possession as he went down and snapped a shot off that he bounced off the turf, between the goalie’s feet, and up into the net to make it 9-3.

To their credit, the Stealth never sagged, and, in fact, rallied for three goals in the last six minutes to close the final gap to 9-6.

It’ll be a while now, but when you get a chance to watch a game live, take advantage of it, because it could be well on its way to becoming a mainstay on the Minnesota sports scene.

This is in addition to all the great sports events we have now, including baseball, softball, track, and now the start of the Huskies baseball season and area short-track stock car racing.

Of course, you can spend a lot of hours watching compelling sports on satellite television too, including the Twins, who continue their astonishing run  atop their Central Division  of the American League.

Wolfpack goalkeeper Vanta Coda blocked a shot by Stealth's Louie hnalko (10), then waited for the ball to come back to earth. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Wolfpack goalkeeper Vanta Coda blocked a shot by Stealth's Louie hnalko (10), then waited for the ball to come back to earth. Photo credit: John Gilbert

And college softball made a fantastic run, with the Gophers, coached by Jamie Trachsel, making such a strong run at the NCAA tournament. Those games were tense and dramatic, and they were so good I found myself switching away from the St. Louis-Boston Stanley Cup Playoff finals to watch UCLA, Oklahoma, Washington, Alabama and the Gophers battle. It came down to a best-of-three championship series between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 UCLA, scheduled to end Tuesday or Wednesday nights after UCLA crushed Oklahoma 16-3 in the first game on Monday.

As for the Stanley Cup, I don’t appreciate Boston’s giant 6-foot-9 defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara being able to cross-check everybody he gets near, almost always without penalties, but while I don’t enjoy watching him play, it was horrible that he was hit on the side of the face by a deflected puck Monday night, when St. Louis came back to gain 2-games-apiece tie. Chara went out and we learned Tuesday that he suffered a fractured jaw in the fluke incident.

As for the Twins, Mitch Garver comes back from the injured list to add the punch of his .329 average to the lineup, joining Jorge Polanco, who leads the American League at .335. Now, if someone had told you Polanco and Garver would be leading the team on the first of June with those averages, you would have called for the men with butterfly nets.

But how about the pitching? What kind of odds would you have offered against Jake Odorizzi having a 7-2 record, Jose Berrios 7-2, Kirk Gibson 6-2, and Martin Perez 7-2 as of June 1? The relievers have been OK, and will get better, and right now, I’d rather see Taylor Rogers stroll in from the bullpen than anybody I can think of.

The hitting may come and go, but the starting pitching will keep the Twins in contention…indefinitely. Can you say, “Where do I order my World Series tickets?”