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JR. NLL TOURNAMENT A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE
08/28/2013 - 12:46pm

By Travis Larner - The first-ever Junior National Lacrosse League Tournament gave youth lacrosse players the opportunity to square off against teams representing six different NLL cities. Regardless of their performances on the floor, is one the Jr. Rochester Knighthawks will not soon forget.
 
The tournament was a success for the Jr. Knighthawks’ Pee Wee and Bantam teams. Although both teams lost to the Jr. Colorado Mammoth in their respective semifinal rounds, all of the players and coaches expressed the same sentiment.
 
“It was a lot of fun. I’m still getting feedback from the kids. They had a great time,” said Bantam head coach Ron Elijah. “Having (assistant coaches) Johnny Powless and Chris Driscoll on the bench, and having the Champion’s Cup there the entire time, they had an awesome experience.”
 
“I thought it was a great event,” Powless said, whose younger brother, Marshall, wore his No. 93 jersey for the Bantams. “I really enjoyed coaching my brother and he really loved playing in the tournament.”
 
Driscoll’s son, Kyle, also suited up for the Bantams.
 
“He had a lot of fun playing, and being able to wear a Knighthawks’ jersey, shorts, gloves and helmet,” said Driscoll. “To be able to play on the turf in that Rock facility was fun for the boys.”
 
The Jr. Knighthawks Bantams swept all five of their games in the round robin portion of the tournament, earning a spot in the semifinal round. They defeated their opponents by a combined 50-18, including a 15-0 win over Buffalo.
 
“They were confident. They beat every team in the round robin,” Elijah said. “They really gelled together. We were only together for about a week but it looked like they had been playing together all summer.”
 
According to the coaches, the players adjusted well to the NLL rulebook, which was enforced by professional referees. Of the new rules, the players, ranging from nine to 13 years old, mostly enjoyed being able to dive into the crease.
 
“The kids really liked the NLL rules, especially dunking, diving and picking up the ball in the crease,” Powless said.
 
Chase Scanlan of the Jr. Knighthawks Bantam team was one of the top players in the entire tournament. He tied Toronto’s Joshua Dawick with a tournament-high 22 points, scoring 11 goals and 11 assists.
 
The Pee Wees, coached by the Dawson brothers, Pat O’Toole and Vince Longboat, held a 2-2 record before their semifinal loss to Colorado. Their two wins over Buffalo and Vancouver came by a combined total of 23-2.
 
“I think they enjoyed the experience,” Paul Dawson said. “Obviously when you win more you’ll have a little more fun, but I think overall they all had a good time. I think everyone got a bit better this weekend.”
 
Playing in goal for the Jr. Knighthawks Pee Wee squad was O’Toole’s son, Connor, who wore Matt Vinc’s No. 48. Dawson says that Rochester’s Hall of Fame netminder and goaltending coach has a star in the making.
 
“He moves really well,” said Dawson, who entered the NLL as a goalie. “He’s just a bit small, and Pat knows that, but he’ll grow into himself. I think he’s on the right track. He made a lot of big saves. He is well on his way to being a good goalie.”
 
Coltrane Tyson led the Pee Wees in scoring with 10 points (2+8). He was noted by his coach as “one of the better players” on the team along with Brendan Anderson, Ryan Brooks and Ross Hill.
 
The players and coaches hope to see the Jr. NLL Tournament continue annually with more events like it throughout the year. According to Elijah, the Jr. Knighthawks and Rock have already discussed playing an exhibition game during the season.
 
“I think an annual tournament should be the goal with hopefully at some point all of the NLL cities participating,” Dawson said. “Anytime you have a stick in your hands, you’re going to get better.”
 
“It’s obviously a great experience for the kids,” Driscoll said. I think it’s something that can grow into something bigger and better.” 


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